This is the first time that 1927 has brought its enormously inventive and entertaining adaptation of the folk myth Golem to Manchester – and the company arrives trailing clouds of five-star review glory.
The show has been touring the world since its premiere at the Salzburg Festival in August last year and by now it’s a breathtakingly precise but endearingly human piece in which five human actors and musicians interact to stunning effect with animated backgrounds. It’s not an entirely new concept (and a lot of people might be reminded of Forkbeard Fantasy’s work) but I’ve never seen it done to quite such impressive effect.
In contrast to the technology, the set-up is fairly simple, a contemporary reworking of the European myth of the Golem, a clay man (and there’s no doubt about his sex here, if you get my drift) who comes to life and has a devastating effect on the humans around it. Here, writer/director Suzanne Andrade turns it into a cautionary tale about our increasingly worrying relationship with technology.
Robert (Shamira Turner) is the young, geeky son in an eccentric family. They’ve been getting together for years to rehearse as an anarcho-punk band based around Annie (Charlotte Dubery) and also featuring drummer PJ (Will Close) and Penny (Lilian Henley), the latter doubling-up on-stage throughout as live drummer and keyboard player.
Meanwhile, Gran (Rose Robinson) spends her time quite happily knitting and reminiscing about her late husband. At work – a spectacularly tedious job “backing-up binary” (i.e. actually writing down the ones and zeros of computer code) – Robert has started to fall for fellow worker Joy (also played by Robinson).
But one day geeky Robert buys a prototype gadget, a Golem, who will do his bidding without question. “You can wake your Golem and put him to sleep at the end of the day,” Robert is promised. “What you use him for in between is up to you. You are in control.”
Of course, that’s not exactly what happens and the fate of the family, indeed the world, is turned upside down as the initially-clumsy and strangely charming Golem metamorphoses into a manipulative, advertising-obsessed, bizarrely-attired monster.
It is, glaringly, a metaphor for our increasingly technology dependent society – an irony that I’m sure isn’t lost on the company – that’s pulled off with wit and impressive skill.
Although it ever-so-slightly runs out of steam towards the end, this is a wonderfully entertaining production, dotted with terrific visual and verbal gags. I could happily sit through it again as I get the distinct impression that there was a lot going on that I missed while being wowed by the fabulous technological trickery.
This is, I would suggest, precisely the sort of ambitious production that HOME’s original mission statement promised and, yet again, we’re reminded of the unique contribution this cultural powerhouse is making to the North West’s artistic ecology.
Golem is at HOME, Manchester until October 17, 2015
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