1927 theatre company is back after a successful worldwide, three-year tour of its début show, The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, with a new show loosely inspired by Gustav Meyrink’s novel Der Golem.
Currently housed at the Young Vic, 1927’s Golem retains the dark stylistic combinations of animation, live music and storytelling by Paul Barritt, appealing to both children and adults in the manner to which we have become accustomed to expect from them. I’m pleased to confirm that this show is equally deserving of critical acclaim.
We follow Robert Robertson’s story, as narrated by his older sister Annie with truly hilarious rhythmic poetry, through his transformation from ordinary and nerdy to sex symbol under the watchful guidance of his Golem, a rudimentary robot he has purchased. At first, Golem is friendly and provides useful help to guide Robert into being a better version of himself from within Robert’s own control. However, as Robert upgrades to Golem 2 because “you don’t want to be left behind”, the whole thing begins to feel all too familiar.
Golem 2 is slick and has his own intentions that are less than honourable. Robert feels pressured by the media around him in a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ way, not unlike the ubiquitous Apple products that currently govern most of the general public’s lives, to submit to Golem 2’s suggestions. The distinction between the controller and the controlee becomes blurred and I suspect that although Robert sees the merit in Golem’s ideas, he wouldn’t act upon them alone. It’s really a shame that Golem convinces Robert not to pursue Joy, the Head of Stationary at his workplace Binary Back Up, which comes with its own catchy theme tune… perhaps they could have a spin off?!
Golem 2 and subsequently Golem 3 take on characteristics that absolutely reek of Lady Macbeth’s fatal meddling. Nevertheless, a clever question is prompted – are we even able to extricate ourselves from technology’s already firm grasp? It’s a social commentary on the advancement of technology, its encroachment into every part of our lives and whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, told beautifully to a wholly captivated audience.
I found it interesting to note that Golem, although the namesake of the play and lead character, is not played by a human. Golem 1 is made of what looks to be crude Claymation, while the subsequent versions are made of slightly more sophisticated animation. The way in which the actors collaborate is a big part of what makes this show so endearing and yet infinitely clever.
What’s also interesting is the choice to address such current issues through a time period that is so long before public interest and wide use of technology. It’s almost juxtaposed, in that it really magnifies how our lives have become so reliant and intertwined with technology that we have become deaf to the reasonable concerns presented here – but it’s only when presented in that time period that this becomes so apparent. Frighteningly, advancements in AI show that we aren’t very far off from bringing Golem into our lives for real, as perhaps is the general perception.
The clever and catchy songs are impressively performed live with drums and a small organ-esque piano by the five strong cast who play the various characters. Annie’s band, Annie & the Underdogs are particularly hilarious in their really quite pathetic attempt to be teenage anarchists from their grandmother’s garage.
Unfortunately the programme isn’t clear on which actors play each character, but research indicates that Robert is played by the female Shamira Turner and his sister Annie by Esme Appleton. They are particularly entertaining to watch, and worth a mention is the self-aware comedy when their schoolmates often tease Robert for looking “like a girl with a wig on”! All of the cast are ever so lovely to watch, their accents reflecting the time perfectly and the switch between characters so seamless it is difficult to identify which actors play multiple characters, which is very impressive indeed.
Unsurprisingly, extra performances have been added to run through until January 2015, so go and enjoy the magic of multimedia through the edgiest, most unique performance around for yourselves… and hurry!
Golem is playing at the Young Vic until 31 January. See the Young Vic website for tickets and more information.