Talos, a giant in the Greek mythology, is the name taken for London’s first science fiction theatre festival. Founded in 2015, Talos returns now with 12 new plays featuring artists from all over the world. The Greek theatre company Cyborphic creates a kaleidoscopic experience of science fictional theatre.

Each day three different plays are presented, which makes each visit unique and colourful. The festival director Christos Callow Jr. warmly welcomes the audiences and introduces the concept of Talos and the individual plays. The programme of the first night offers the stage to three diverse and multi-layered performances.

The first performance of the night and the whole festival is Rip, a retelling and stage adaptation of the short story Rip Van Winkle by the American author Washington Irving. Rip is written and directed by Edward Einhorn and tells the story of a man who slept through his own life and wakes up as an old man in the future. Michael Golab’s performance as Rip skilfully switches between the hopeful but indecisive young version and the regretting, older and wiser version he becomes. Even though the story is communicated on a humoristic level, the questioning of identity, belonging and self-acceptance of the original story is lost within. A deeper investigation into Rip’s character and the portrayal of the change of the world outside is desirable. In this way, the short performance can be extended in length and depth. Furthermore, the staging of Rip on the couch in the right-hand corner is not ideal for most of the audiences as the sight is easily blocked in the small theatre space.

The second play is Last Tragedy, written by the festival director Callow Jr. and directed by Sokratis Synitos. This play invites the audience into a post-human world where robots imitate humans far better than any surviving human could. Zoe (Evi Polyviou) returns from a failed audition for a role as a human to her flatmate/friend/owner Rosita (Bee Scott), the dysfunctional robot who fails in comforting her. This absurd scenario is cleverly written with the right tone of sarcasm and self-irony. The performance of both actresses is convincing and entertaining, especially Scott’s auto-pilot-optimism. Last Tragedy is a great contribution to Talos without sliding into stereotypical storytelling.

Paper Doll is the last and longest (about 50 minutes) performance of the first festival day of Talos. This play is written by Susan Eve Haar and directed by Katherine Sturt-Scobie. The couple Jenny (Molly Rose Barton) and Rash (Panayiotis Patsias) are in a hotel room at night celebrating their anniversary. Right from the beginning the atmosphere is unsettling and the conversation silenced by underlying issues in the couple’s power dynamics. The reality of the play is constantly interrupted by fictional elements of foreshadowing and collaboration storytelling which puts the audience in suspense. Paper Dolls presents a variety of different elements of characterisation and story development, but it should rather focus on specific elements than overwhelming the audience and muddling the promising storyline. The beginning is very strong, but unfortunately the energy of the couple’s tension, performed in silence and sarcastic dialogue, fades throughout the performance. The acting is convincing, but sometimes shows rather unmotivated actions and the danger of stereotypical characterisation.

Talos is an adventure to undertake for every science fiction and theatre-lover as it combines these both passions promisingly. Over the next three days, Talos will present a variety of new plays featuring different futuristic and dystopian worlds and will end with a Frankenstein live radio drama.

Talos II played at The Bread & Roses Theatre until 25 March

Photo: Richard J. Hand