A dystopian, existential mare.

RATS, written by Gaël van den Bossche, challenges our individuality by posing an idea that we would all function better and essentially be happier if we had a ‘Siri-like’ technological guide telling us: how we feel, what we want and what we should do. Kind of like a situation resonating in our current climate with rapid technological advancements and very few people “stuck in the dark ages” as is often said.

Director Josh Hinds tells the story with limited: space, set and budget, but nevertheless delivers some effective food for thought using only hollow flats for transitioning space and time leaving it up to the actors to fill in the gaps. Hinds’ direction leaves us questioning what it is to be happy and how we achieve happiness with tight scene changes and tense climactic arguments on both side of a dialectic. I would, however, question his continuous intense arguments resulting in shouting which not only is often an easy option, but also is not appropriate for the intimacy of the theatre.

The protagonist, Lynn (Hayley Osborne), despite her at times distracting weak R, is a very convincing robotic RAT (irrational…) who shows tendencies to be better off as a CON (ego-conscious being) and after the great computer mastermind suggesting results otherwise, George (David Clayton) the CON overseeing the department, decides to implement the treatment of transitioning anyway and manages to do so with the help of his RAT partner Katy (Charlotte Bloomsbury). To the detriment of all the technology induced workforce, DARREN (Patrick Whitelaw) becomes corrupt and due to microphone spying technology similar to our own smartphones, sends a message he has recorded of Katie’s voice saying CON’s are stupid. This in turn encourages a revolution from the RATS and results in the isolation and extermination of George.

Admittedly, not quite as believable and mesmerising as the recent Black Mirror series, however, what makes RATS bearable is the committed action and believable conflict between the actors, particularly the relationship between Osborne and Mike Parker (playing Robert); and Clayton and Bloomsbury. The text at times finds moments of comedy and sci-fi fantasy that is genuinely funny but at other times does fail to amuse.

RATS is a fringe show with a lot of potential to challenge our decisions in society and whether we are too far gone to realise that technology has taken over our lifestyles more than we can imagine.

RATS is playing at Etcetera Theatre until 24 December. For more information and tickets, click here.