#Vile: The Untimely Demise of a Manufactured Pop Star is a one-man show, written and performed by Matthew Greenhough. A D-list celebrity heads home for a funeral, just as his "reality" career begins to collapse around him.
The show begins well. The "celebrity's" life is highlighted in all its banality: the obsession with the number of social media followers, the emptiness of being famous without doing much to deserve it. The protagonist is dating a fame-hungry member of a girl band, who spends ages posing for selfies to capture the perfect "spontaneous" moment. But news of his Nan’s death sends him home to York, for her funeral and a dose of reality.
The truth is soon clear: our protagonist is miserable, and trapped trying to maintain a grip on the very thing that is causing such unhappiness. His hometown brings back a flood of memories – his first serious relationship, which he hasn’t gotten over, or the bullying he suffered at college. There are universal lessons here, about the alienation he feels as he goes home; shops may have changed, but everything still looks the same. The same is true of the people. They’ve all moved on with their lives, yet the routines are familiar to the world that the protagonist has left behind.
Greenhough’s performance is riveting, as his character begins to crumble under the artifice of the world he has created, constantly checking his phone and posting a series of increasingly bizarre Facebook Live videos with a growing air of desperation. He has been raised to believe that fame is the pinnacle of achievement, and everything he has done thus far has led him to where he is now. The loss of that status is unthinkable – but he is reliant on the whims of his followers, out of control of his own destiny.
Unfortunately, the show begins to unravel about two-thirds of the way through, with a series of shocking events that become implausible in their frequency. The finale is a little farcical, which is disappointing. The world of celebrity social media is still new, and there is plenty to say without resorting to over-blown cliché. It also undermines what's been a great performance: a slightly manic portrayal of a man on the verge of losing everything he has been taught to want and need.
So the story's let down by a weak ending, which asks too much of our suspension of disbelief. But #Vile is still an interesting show, which accurately and knowingly skewers the nation’s obsession with "reality" television and manufactured pop stars.