'See-Through' Studio Blog: "Being a YouTuber resonated with being a solo theatremaker"
Theatremaker Claire Gaydon discusses the inspiration behind her solo-show See-Through, in the Studio this Friday, which explores YouTube and Vlogging culture.
The show is inspired by a survey that showed 34% of young people would chose YouTuber as their top career choice, what did you think when you read that story?
My initial fascination was with the YouTubers who didn’t make it. Who didn’t get famous, who tried and tried to put themselves out there and didn’t get any real attention. I had a conversation with a friend about this and afterwards he sent me two videos. One was an incredibly famous YouTuber (who I didn’t know at the time) and one had 20 subscribers. I watched them both and called him up being like ‘how can they keep making these videos when no one is watching?’. Both the videos seemed the same to me, I had no idea that one was a megastar and the other a nobody.
It wasn’t that the videos were bad as such, they were just girls talking about their life, messing about and being funny. This got me thinking. How do you make it big? What are the steps to make this happen? And if one of these girls (who didn’t seem that different from me) could do it, could I do it? Catching myself thinking this was the moment that inspired the making of the show. I’d gone from thinking ‘what the hell?’ to totally empathising with that 34%.
Why do you think young people are so attracted to it as a career choice? Do you think it’s the same today as it was when the survey came out two years ago?
I think on the surface it feels like a career choice that celebrates you being you. It’s about being understood and accepted and appreciated for who you are. And these all seem like things we really really want. On a subconscious level I think it’s a career choice that’s perfectly suited with our current cultures’ ‘ideal self’. A theory I read about in Will Storr’s book Selfie which makes total sense to me:
‘It’s usually depicted as an extroverted, slim, beautiful, individualistic, optimistic, hard-working, socially aware yet high-self-esteeming global citizen with entrepreneurial guile and a selfie camera. It enjoys thinking it’s in some way unique, that it’s trying to ‘make the world a better place’, and one of the traits it’ll value highly is that of personal authenticity, or ‘being real’. It’ll preach that in order to find happiness and success, you must be ‘true to yourself’ and follow your dreams’. And if you dream big enough...you’ll discover that ‘anything is possible’. Oh and it’s usually younger than thirty.’
I don’t know, but I would guess that if the survey was done today and we changed the job title from ‘YouTuber’ to ‘Social Media Influencer’, (which covers YouTuber and Instagram as well as other platforms) we would see an even higher percentage of young people choosing this as their top career choice.
How did you find the experience of being a YouTuber?
This is a tricky one to answer because I don’t want to give too much away...But I’ll explain what I can.
Making videos with my friends was a complete joy. I loved the editing process too (although it is incredibly long). I developed a huge amount of respect for the hard work that goes into being a YouTuber. People who take it seriously 100% deserve respect for their craft.
Most interestingly, I found that being a YouTuber resonated with being a solo theatre maker. In particular, being a solo theatre maker who makes autobiographical work. Many successful YouTubers divulge personal content, which makes total sense in today's world where we crave authenticity. Granted theatre makers appear less vulnerable, they’re generally over 20, and if they’re booked as part of a venues season (as opposed to a fringe festival for example) they’ll probably have a team of at least one other person around them. But underneath those structures there’s still a huge question around self care.
What’s more difficult, making a show based on yourself or making YouTube content based on yourself?
In terms of sharing yourself with strangers, I think they’re both anxiety inducing. How much of See-Through is true or false is purposefully ambiguous. Creatively, the intention behind this is to highlight our expectation of authenticity, practically it is also so I’m able to tell the story I want to tell. So, even though some of it may be autobiographical, it’s not an autobiographical show. I chatted with poet, writer and Instagram Influencer Salma El-Wardany about this last year who said:
‘If you reveal something deeply personal, you can see it as making yourself vulnerable or you can see it as an opportunity to connect. It’s a matter of perception and how you want to look at it...I think we forget to see it as art.’
I agree with Salma in that that it’s how you approach and view the work. I feel like the platform of theatre enables me to blend my own experiences with research to tell the stories I want to tell. But for YouTubers/Instagram influencers, social media platforms can do the same thing.
What do you think people will leave See-Through thinking?
The show doesn’t condemn or praise YouTube culture, but it does highlight areas that are problematic. In trying to develop a genuine and authentic connection with her audience ‘Claire’ (a version of me and and the aspiring YouTuber) creates confessional videos. At first they feel empowering, but they quickly digress into something that feels self-exploitative. YouTube’s algorithm favours clickbait and controversial content over anything else so it’s not a surprise that young people are feeling the pressure to create these types of videos.
Broadly speaking, I hope audiences leave thinking about sharing. When we share, regardless of whether it’s a performance or just in conversation with someone, we connect and that is a beautiful thing. But like anything, it falls on a personal spectrum and it’s important that we make we’re the ones setting the boundaries.
Friday 31 May, 7pm
Tickets: £12 (£10 Under 26s, £5 Derby Uni students)