A Nintendo Entertainment System places host to this interactive show with a twist. It’s retro-immersive, with the audience as the enablers and Amy Conway as the hero that we depend upon to complete her quest. It feels a bit like a lecture, or a corporate team away day in parts – we work in groups to accomplish the missions and learn more about ourselves as people, both individually and together. But Super Awesome World has a much deeper message – if nothing else, it reminds us that we’re not alone.
We have such affinity to video games because we can control their outcome more so than our actual lives; they’re even proven to be beneficial to our personal development. Super Awesome World is not a story, it’s more a conceptual analysis of real life. Conway’s delivery shows that there is so much more than pressing pause and walking away.
I wish I could press pause on existence sometimes. I wish, like Conway, I could lose a life and restart at a save point with the same, unrelenting optimism that characters like Mario and Link possess. But none of us can. Conway gets how difficult that can be, so much so that she volunteers as a Samaritan, but Super Awesome World is not a poster for the organisation. Conway showcases her disappointment at failing to help in this role too. She describes it like a game, but instead of red cartoon hearts that you’re trying to fill, it’s human beings. Why is real life so much harder?
Super Awesome World also reminds us of a point where we moved on from playing video games – we decided they were childish. When we level up in the virtual world, it feels like an achievement. In reality, all Conway recognises is disappointment and personal failure – the two realms are mutually exclusive and somewhat spectrally opposing. She gets our shared pain and invites us into more difficult levels, so as a team we feel powerful enough to conquer them. Everything about the show invites you, but never pressures you, to continue. We strike out from the safety of the safe haven and bravely venture into the next dungeon.
Conway intersperses the levels with phonecalls, harrowing accounts of her attempts to be the listener that the Samaritans callers need. She carries the burden solo – it’s less messy but more dangerous. This simple, heartfelt narrative rings a chord in us all. It’s not always about a chipper message, a “keep smiling and it’ll be better in the morning” narrative. Conway gives us the reality for all sides of the conversation – it won’t always be better. But eventually it might be. And that is worth it.
Super Awesome World has a personal flavour to it too – Conways answers a call to Amy and suddenly we hear both heart-breaking sides of the conversation. Conway isn’t afraid to make herself vulnerable in this setting, an act of self-acceptance that forms her personal method of healing. But it also shines a beacon of light out for us all – we are not alone in the darkness. The final boss may return to battle again, but we have our fellow heroes of the light to rely upon.
Super Awesome World is not the most innovative, technically advanced or beautifully performed piece of theatre. It’s imperfect and it’s real, it’s emotional and emotive. Conway puts herself on the line for her audience – she defends the coping strategies of video games and she highlights the need to be open when it comes to facing reality. We can’t always regenerate at our last save point, the last time we felt safe and secure. Sometimes we have to battle on against the darkness.
Super Awesome World plays Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 until 27 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.