Do you ever think your phone is in control of you, rather than the other way round? Does it wake you up, tell you what route to take when you’re trying to get somewhere, suggest stuff you should buy, demand that you respond when it pings and buzzes? Our hi-tech devices, and the mind-bogglingly rich and powerful corporations that make and sell them, are taking us over and we seem ever eager for more.
These are the kinds of thoughts prompted by Golem, a sinister but wonderfully entertaining glimpse into the dark future that may await us all. Written and directed by Suzanne Andrade, the story the play tells is – very appropriately – presented in an experimental, astonishingly inventive way, imaginatively blending film, animation (by Paul Barritt), music and live performance.
Robert Robertson has a deadly dull job in the deadly dull Binary Backup department of a nameless organisation. An inventor friend offers him an artificially made creature who will brighten up his life by carrying out any task he asks it to perform. In Jewish folklore a golem was a human figure made from clay who was brought to life by supernatural means and treated as a slave. In stories associated with the myth the servant often turns on its master and that’s exactly what happens here, as the golem – which takes the form of a moving image cleverly projected on to a large screen – is progressively ‘updated’ to the point that it begins to influence and manipulate its owner.
Much of this is very funny, as when the golem starts to read the Daily Mail and takes to parroting the paper’s views on immigration and musing that ‘Everything was good for a while in the Eighties’. Robert begins following the golem’s advice on fashion, romance and music. He plays in a punk band with his sister and confirmation that things have taken a decided turn for the worse comes when he begins listening to U2. But, as with Frankenstein’s monster, we begin to realise that the advance of technology has created something truly terrifying. Robert is steadily losing his humanity, as his individuality and capacity to think for himself are remorselessly eroded. He becomes a ‘fully functioning modern man’: careerist, materialistic, ruthlessly self-interested and a marketing man’s dream, happy to buy whatever the golem recommends.
The cast of five brilliantly portray the human characters in the story, seamlessly interacting with the magical animated images and effects as well as providing the music (composed by Lillian Henley). It’s a dazzling visual spectacle, but also a compelling narrative and a genuinely disturbing – there’s a chilling final twist – fable for our times. Go see it!
***** A play for today if ever there was one, and an amazing theatrical experience
Photos: Bernhard Mueller
Golem continues at the Liverpool Playhouse until Saturday 21 October 2017.