The Y2K aesthetic is firmly, and – for many of us – terrifyingly, back. And the turn of the millennium has also resurfaced in our storytelling.

The resurgence of the Year 2000 is probably not only because 20-something years represents a kind of magical distance perfect for nostalgia. It’s also that the renewed fascination with the millennium reflects its formative nature. As we face the era of artificial intelligence (AI), we’re casting our eyes back to the beginnings of the mainstream internet age.

This is where the set for Someday We’ll Find It places us: in a ’90s-ish office complete with blocky Mac desktop computers, chunky keyboards and vinyl flooring. This period, after all, is when the show’s co-scriptwriter – Google – was first launched.

Inside the office, performer Zachary Sheridan begins to speak while moving deliberately around the space. Most of what he says would, superficially, be considered non-sensical. Sheridan voices a long series of Google searches generated by interrogative prompts like who, what, where, why, when and how. He spends the vast majority of his time on stage simply listing questions.

A disjointed script with a form resembling an online listicle could, and probably should, be entirely uncompelling. But Sheridan and the show’s co-creator, Karla Livingstone-Pardy, have performed some kind of alchemy in the script’s construction. The list of questions never forms into anything like a plot, but it does develop into an emotive shape somewhere between queries about the mysterious history of the swimming pigs and a set of detailed and kindly instructions on how to dance.

The judiciously chosen breakout moments, in which Sheridan either answers a query or acts out excerpts from an AI-generated play, are essential in creating a skeleton from which the many questions can hang in a more meaningful way.

The on-stage persona Sheridan and Livingstone-Pardy have developed for Sheridan’s character is also hugely useful in creating momentum against the script’s will. There’s a curious blankness to him, which fosters an atmosphere of acceptance as the endless stream of humanity’s mostly inane questions washes over us. It also makes the moments when he emotes feel almost dramatic. Clever stagecraft matches this dynamic. Sheridan moves around the stage poetically while doing very little, but when he commits to a task – like unpacking a box of toy dinosaurs – the action suddenly feels almost overwhelming.

Livingstone-Pardy and Sheridan are undoubtedly very clever theatre-makers, but the conceit of this show still has its limitations. While the pair have done everything possible to transform a list of questions into an engaging hour-long theatrical meditation, it inevitably drags in some sections and feels a little unfocussed in others. Perhaps this is part of their intention; the show’s blurb describes it as a reflection on “attention in an age of screens”. But what comes through most powerfully is a subtle commentary on how effectively humans have managed to infuse their own nature into the ones and zeroes of the digital sphere.

Someday We’ll Find It is at Studio 166 at Goodwood Theatre and Studios until March 17.

Read more 2024 Adelaide Fringe coverage here on InReview.

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