There’s something about the nature of web series that is both enigmatically exciting and challenging. In the world of online streaming platform giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+, web series as an art-form could have easily become obsolete. Micro formats like TikTok have become incredibly popular as a form of entertainment for online users, particularly amongst younger generations, so the short to medium forms of YouTube web series and vlogs could have begun to lose their relevance. Could, being the key word, because in many respects, the indie creations that have appeared on YouTube and Vimeo have in many ways been some of the most formally interesting and ingenious narratives to have been produced in recent years. These self-publishing platforms have allowed artists to experiment with their craft in ways that many before them would not have been able to whilst concurrently growing an audience for their work. Web series can play with narrative and cinematic style in ways that studio and contract bound productions cannot and this is what makes them so exciting to watch; there’s a risk to them that you don’t really get with a lot of television or film. Could this be a revolutionary piece of art, or a clumsily hashed piece of dross? With the internet, it can be a bit of a pot luck, but with Greedy Pig Theatre Company’s latest project, The Last Thing He Saw Was A Ferret, we are offered a true treat of online drama.
Co-written by Gabrielle Finnegan and Douglas Murdoch, The Last Thing He Saw Was A Ferret, is a five part thriller where the events of a disastrous student flat party are gradually revealed. Student friends Eli (Russell Eccleston), Lulu (Inez Solomon), Hettie (Kyiah Ashton) and London (Nell Bailey) recount what happened in the lead up to their flatmate Angelo’s (Michael Difford) fall from their flat window, involving a rather disgruntled ferret of all things. Each episode focuses on a single character’s testimony of the party’s events, and as the characters reveal more about their relationships with one another through these intimate monologues, the dark, tangled web of what – or who – caused Angelo’s potentially fatal fall is revealed in all its sinister glory.
I love a good mystery – it’s probably why my favourite genres are horror and thrillers, and in some ways, The Last Thing He Saw Was A Ferret falls into both genres. The tension of each episode, cultivated by Lex Kaby and Alicia Pollard’s direction, Alex Latham’s lighting and Finn MacNeil’s sound design and composition, is perfectly balanced with the vulnerable performances of the ensemble cast. The choice to have the characters’ monologues framed by whether their testimony veers towards honesty or dishonesty is a brilliant conceit that ramps up the tension and suspicion about each of the characters, and with all five episodes running at roughly ten minutes, the unfurling mystery truly becomes addictive watching. In the fifth episode’s final moments, as the truth and context of what happened is revealed through ingenious cuts between the different character’s accounts – edited to perfection by writer Douglas Murdoch – the brilliance of this series’ writing reveals its masterstroke. This is a brilliantly executed thriller that utilises its minimalist cinematic design in order to create a tense, intriguing plot that neatly ties up its many threads in a cleverly satisfying ending.