#thenewme Under the influence

We’ve all seen them, know them, maybe even been them. The fit chick, the yogi, the Soundcloud DJ, the wellness advocate… they’re our biggest influencers. Originally featured as a short in The Blue Room’s 2017 600 Seconds, #thenewme is a social commentary satire on the characters we present online, making its Fringe World debut this summer at The Briefing Room at Girls School from Friday, January 28 until Sunday, February 6. BRAYDEN EDWARDS spoke to the show’s creator Mariah O’Dea to find out more about the weird and wonderful world of influencers and the unlikely story of how it came to be the subject of her first full-length comedy.

Congrats on bringing #thenewme to the stage this Fringe World. What was it that made you want to create this show in the first place?

The first snippet of the show was part of an assignment at uni, in a comedy unit, of course, back in 2014. I, at the last-minute, well the night before, threw together an improvisation where I acted out the #fitspo models that were trending on Instagram. To be honest, the inspiration came purely from jealousy. A guy I liked at the time’s ex-girlfriend was one of them. She was beautiful and her profile was even better. I don’t think it would’ve worked as well as it did, if I didn’t have all those feelings behind it! I had to do something about it, so I poked fun at it all and had a laugh. It was just an added bonus that I got a High Distinction on the assignment after making everyone else laugh too!

And how has it changed to what it is today? Without giving too much away, what kind of things happen in the show?

Of course, as most of us are aware, comparing yourself to social media profiles has no cure, and its impact has only continued to grow exponentially. Acting out these over-exaggerated characters really put a balm on this world, reeking of perfection, it was almost cathartic. Taking it away from being just an assignment, I added in the left of centre yogi, and a Soundcloud DJ – Soundcloud was a big thing in 2017 – and submitted the 10-minute version of #thenewme to The Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights 2017 programme of 600 Seconds. It was again, extremely well-received and was selected as part of The Best Of 600 Seconds.

I always wanted to make it stand-alone show from then on, but just kept putting it off. However, after the frustration of losing so much performance-related work in 2020, I knew I just needed a deadline, so on a whim -and telling no one – I applied for Fringe. Due to the fast-paced social media landscape, a lot of things had to be updated since 2017. I have also found how quickly we change ourselves online. #thenewme now follows just one character, who changes herself into these contrasting social media characters, according to what’s ‘trending’ in order to ‘find herself’ or at least distract herself.

And how is this show different from what you have done before?

Most of the shows I’ve performed have been collaboratively devised productions and kids shows. I had moved to Alice Springs in 2019 to work for Starlight Children’s Foundation and I found when I returned, even after just a year, I had lost most of my connections within the industry, or maybe there wasn’t much out there for me. I do feel, even as we are becoming more aware of bringing in more diversity and inclusion, comedy is still dominated by men. Instead of complaining about it, and for my creativity to be satisfied, I knew I had to stop waiting for others to see or ‘choose’ me and make it myself.

I have never put on a full show alone before, or done a solo outside of uni, so I’m surprised at how well it turned out. I could not have done it without the direction and assistance from Gemma Sharpe, a friend of mine involved in the industry who jumped on board. I needed that outside eye and had full trust in her judgement. She also put my sound together, alongside Kieran O’Regan, which I really think helped bring the show’s narrative together.

You must have had to get to know your subject matter in writing this show. What’s the funniest influencer ‘fail’ you encountered?

I have seen some wellness influencers and life coaches share claims that COVID-19 wasn’t real at the beginning of the pandemic… but then, more recently share that they’re “recovering from COVID…” #awkward… Of course, before social media, celebrities were only caught out by paparazzi, and advertisers only used actors to endorse their products, but now celebrities and influencers endorse products using themselves as the brand, and can be caught out by just about anyone if it relates to something they’ve shared on their social media. Unfortunately, when you are the brand, being human and changing your mind is scrutinised.

If you became one of those super influencers with millions of followers, how would you use your newly found power?

I’d like to think that I wouldn’t get sucked into that world so much that I forget to live in the real world and that I’d only share authentically, but I assume if I even got there in the first place, I’d probably be no different to any average influencer. However, it would be great to leverage my creative projects and you know, survive off of it!

What’s next for you for the rest of 2022? Can we expect to see any more performances…or should we just follow you on socials to stay up to date?

I’ve had some extra dates added to my Fringe season, so you can still catch #thenewme on the 28th, 29th, 3rd, 4th, and 5th! I would love to continue to develop #thenewme after Fringe World, and, as soon as it isn’t complex, tour it. However, I’d love to keep creating and writing shows and comedy and hopefully I can find more opportunities after Fringe, keep my foot on the gas, and #thenewme is just the beginning. In the meantime, you can always follow my personal socials, until I’m ready for a more professional social media at @mariahohdear or by searching Mariah O’Dea.

Comments are closed.