Do you want to be a Nobody—or an Everybody?

NANCY HEATH reviews ‘Golem’ at Trafalgar Studios. 

A world of peace where no one wants anything. The only thing that’s missing: free will.

Welcome to the world of Golem Version 3. But, to understand how great this world is, we have to go back to before the Golems. Back to a world of rituals and dissatisfaction—we were unhappy, and we didn’t even know it!

This is Golem at Trafalgar Studios, a psychological, multimedia performance by Theatre Company 1927. Golem premiered last December at the Young Vic and, due to its overwhelming success, has since transferred to the West End. With a cast of five actors and through the extensive use of animation and projection, a truly unique theatre experience is created. It is a warning to viewers of the dangers of our technology-fuelled, capitalist want-driven age.

Salzburger Festspiele 2014- Golem -Landestheater Salzburg

In this post-socialist world, Robert Robertson (Shamira Turner) is the first owner of a Golem, an animate clay man who obeys his every order. Robert’s socialist sister Annie acts as narrator to the show and is also the leader of an underground, but tame, rebellion. These pseudo-revolutionaries form the band “Annie and the Underdogs”, who rehearse screeching songs about the fallacies of the patriarchy and capitalism, and who have never actually (and never will) play a real show.

Ironically, the warnings against the dangers of technology a plethora of multimedia and technology is used to bring Golem to audiences. All of the Golems are created via skilled projection and animation to tell this tale of the corruption coming of something that was once a pure, whimsical idea. The Golem Version 1 is amiable; it is only when large corporations get involved and start mass-production that the Golem’s become corrupted and start to influence rather than follow orders. Golem Version 2 gains the annoying ability to only talk in rhymes and parrot back slogans and ad campaigns. It is like a television constantly stuck on adverts: you quickly lose patience.

Salzburger Festspiele 2014 - Golem - Landestheater Salzburg

The inclusion of Golem’s unnecessary large phallus tells us something about the male power in our consumerist society: capitalism seems to be a race to become the best man, not person. This is reinforced by Shamira Turner playing the male lead, highlighting perhaps how a woman needs to become more like a man to ‘truly succeed’. Golem is littered with such jibes and ironies, satirising its own audience.

The small cast multirole effectively throughout, giving convincing performances, especially Turner who brings the perfect level of awkward false-confidence to Robert on his journey from “just Robert” into an “Everybody”.

Someone as nice and unassuming as Robert is remoulded into a cold, unfeeling man ready to usurp his friend to a promotion and abandon his loving girlfriend for two personality less women chosen for him by a computer matrix.

Due to the heavy reliance on projection, the performance could seem impersonal or distant; however, the integration of song and music throughout works seamlessly to bring the production closer to the audience. Every step seems to be choreographed allowing even a simple argument between brother and sister to turn into an intricate dance.

Salzburger Festspiele 2014 - Golem - Landestheater Salzburg

Writer Suzanne Andrade, along with production designer and animator Paul Barrit, have crafted a performance which will not soon be forgotten.

Golem deals with the generational warning first realised in Orwell’s 1984, however, it is brought to audiences through a completely different medium and it offers a new, intensive view. Walking out of the theatre a sense of dread filled me as I watched the audience reach for their phones and tablets, tweeting, texting and, once again, closing themselves off from the world. Walking out into Trafalgar Square in the heart of London – where we should have been connected with the many people around us – everyone was looking down at their devices, dependent on their multimedia connections. Perhaps we are not as far away from a Golem led world, where technology influences all our choices, as we think. Golem seems to suggest that we are isolated from those around us by the very technology we use to connect us. It is a terrifying thought. I reached for my phone, put in my headphones, and walked home.

For more information about, Golem showing at Trafalgar Studios until 22nd May, follow this link: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/golem/trafalgar-studios/

Images courtesy of Bernhard MÅller.