June 22, 2024

Golem – a smashing Tech satire at the Trafalgar Studios

Shamira Turner is excellent as Robert, the early-adopter in Golem, a potty satire with vibrant design, which has transferred from the Young Vic to the Trafalgar studios. The other four actors also add hugely to the fun in this play which studies technological progress and criticises the constant parade of newer and (slightly) better tech that is cynically conveyor-belted towards us by companies like Apple.

Created by London company 1927, Golem is a multimedia extravaganza, using the animation skills of Paul Barritt to create moving sets with which the actors can interact. In the most successful scenes, Robert walks on the spot as an animated cityscape scrolls past cartoon-style behind him. It is returned to a little too often, but combined with high tempo music and Turner’s confused expressions, it is always an amusing interlude.

The actors have pale, whitened faces, wild hair-dos, black-lined eyes. When not on interacting on stage Will Close drums maniacally to one side whilst Lillian Henry plays the keyboard opposite. Live music plays throughout, increasing the sense of watching an early silent movie that has forgotten to be silent. Precise timing and positioning allows the witty interaction of animation and actor but there are many amusing asides, statements and drawings to be savoured.

Robert lives with his Gran and works in the delightfully unnecessary Binary Backup Centre. He and his fellow workers laboriously back up computer data in long hand, using enormous pencils. Who funds this type of illogical backup is unclear, but this data dis-entry is the sort of job that is under immediate threat from the play’s developing technology.

A boffin invents a series of mal-functioning robots, starting with a bird that explodes and culminating in the Golem, the labour saving device that men dreamt of in the past. Made of clay we see it only in animation, where its very appearance is designed to bring laughs. But of course this Golem isn’t the culmination of Golem-technology. Golem develops into Golem 2. Just when you’ve invested in one there is a shiny new one that does things better. Often it fixes the faults with the earlier model that oddly enough weren’t mentioned when you bought it.

Golem is a smashing satire of the dangers of technological development and the way that this is pushed onto consumers. But it has no answers and as dis-inventing has not yet been invented the play is really romanticising a past that had its own issues with technology (see WW1, WW2 etc). This it does in an attractive though technology-reliant way, pushing the message that we’ve messed up and are surrounded by Golems of our own – even if they aren’t made of clay, animated and freely displaying their genitals. It is hard to imagine that computers were not used in the making of the production, so there’s a slight tang of hypocrisy and little acknowledgement of the good that technology can bring – it doesn’t always turn on you and ruin your life.

With entrancing characterisations this is a jovial, fast-paced performance that demonstrates hours of work and well deserves the transfer to the Trafalgar Studios. Although given its anti-consumerist position the creators must be a little conflicted to be entertaining theatre-goers in a West End that thrives on new productions.

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