In the heart of busy London town, you can find yourself sucked into to an alternate, dystopian world at the hands of acclaimed company, 1927, who bring their latest hit Golem to Trafalgar Studios. With their striking aesthetic, a strange fusion of sepia-toned nostalgia with a dizzying vision of the future, 1927’s unique blend of performance, live music, animation and film makes for a night at the theatre which is unlike any other.
Golem, which has been adapted for the stage from Gustav Meyrink’s Der Golem, looks at the terrifying possibilities of what can happen when the very machines man designs to aid and support him start to overcome him. When Robert Robertson (Shamira Turner) purchases a clay companion, Golem, his life begins to change drastically as Golem’s basic help soon turns to powerful suggestion and unsettling influence. Soon enough, Golem is upgraded into a newer, more forceful model, and his intrusion into Robert and his family’s lives becomes unbearable, bringing them to breaking point.
The play in many ways covers ground we’re quite familiar with: it’s no secret that technology is developing rapidly and its influence on our behaviour has been huge, with this only set to continue. It was not hard to guess a short while into the production where the tale was headed, and it was clear the message would be a bleak one. It often is when it comes to technology: none of us seem to be able to imagine a future where it all turns out well, or so it appears. Nonetheless, to the production’s credit, the story is told in an incredibly inventive and interesting way: certainly you won’t find another production that looks or feels like 1927’s striking work even if you look far and wide, nor with their sense of fun. While it is aesthetically an acquired taste, the case and director commit to it with verve, and Paul Barritt’s design is expert.
Equally, the characterisation was fun and quirky, the cast of six wonderful physical performers (Will Close, Charlotte Dubery, Lillian Henley, Rose Robinson, and Shamira Turner) clearly each at the top of their game. While the character development did reach terminal velocity quite early in the show, the many comic moments kept the work afloat such as Rose Robinson’s turn as Joy who gives what is possibly the worst job interview in the history of interviews.
Golem offers plenty to feast the eyes on, as well as to muse on, from where choice lies in a culture saturated with advertising and algorithms, to the narcissism and self-aggrandising we’re all becoming so deft at. It undoubtedly makes for an enjoyable and unusual evening out but, for all the inventive and imaginative ideas which have gone into the staging, it’s not a story which feels as if it’s pushing the debate forward or saying anything we’ve not heard before, try though it might.
Golem is playing at Trafalgar Studios until 22 May. For tickets and more information, see the ATG Tickets website. Photo by Bernhard Müller.