Hashtag First World Problems. Check your privilege. Check your wealth before you wreck yourself.
Somebody with first world problems is lost in an everlasting, generally online tantrum about their Superfood Salad arriving limp or their tap water being imperceptibly too warm. But laughing at first world problems is also a way of manipulating people into accepting their circumstances. Sometimes I even catch myself doing this. Last week I was working in the bar with a teenager who was practically hysterical over the fact that the closing time had been extended from ten to eleven. It was outrageous – they couldn’t treat him like this! Yeah, the people of Syria are in solidarity with you man. They’ve started a charity and they’re all setting up direct debits.
The “First World Problems” meme kicked off in 2005 and we have taken a great deal of comfort from it over the years. Visit a superstar city such as Beijing and then return to the UK, with its substandard housing and decommissioned power stations, and it is no longer a given that we still really qualify as the First World. Yet people who make smart remarks about first world problems, people like me in other words, get their comeuppance with Shane Humberstone’s “#First World Problems,” which the Lincoln Company are staging at C South. That sensitivity about privilege is here the usual monumental ache, but it does not translate into enjoyable theatre. For one thing, this is not a play. The script seems to be woven from tweets and there are nonstop bullet-points instead of characters or a story. With its quick-fire presentation and feelgood anguish, it is rather like a memorable school assembly.
“Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past five years will know of Siri,” blogs Linford Butler, the actor who plays this sort of talking Google (I’d never heard of it). Siri is the only character who (or which) appears in the narrative, but there is also a scenario in which a South African tour guide tries to sell her country to some investors, and a couple of drippy if pretty songs.
The cast are on the ball and the action on stage is slick and considered, but there seems to be precious little for them all to do. Humberstone unwittingly reviews his own show when explaining in the programme that it “has no answers, it barely has questions… We don’t want to change the world.” No spectre is haunting Europe then.
But moaning about first world problems is the definitive first world problem. “Went to see a Fringe play and couldn’t understand it #firstworldproblem.”