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THEATRE: 20 MARCH 2016

By GERALDINE WORTHINGTON

Golem, by Suzanne Andrade, inspired by Gustav Meyrink’s novel | Directed by Suzanne Andrade

1927 & Sydney Theatre Company | Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, Sydney | Until 26 March

The UK theatre company 1927 has for the past 10 years combined live performance with animation, to intense critical acclaim. Here at the STC, we finally get to see what all the applause is about as they present their mixed media presentation of Golem, written and directed by Suzanne Andrade.

Inspired by Gustav Meyrink’s 1914 novel of the same name and Jewish mythology — the use of  the right invocation can turn clay into a live male slave — this most modern show presciently warns about the dangers of artificial intelligence as it combines  live action and animation.

We follow the rather dull life of Robert Robertson (Shamira Turner) as his older sister Annie (Esme Appleton) narrates his story using rhythmic verse. Every day, Robert walk through his 1970s seedy streetscape, superbly illustrated by Paul Barritt’s astonishing animation, to arrive in the Binary Back Up Department, his place of employment.

Here he and his fellow workers vigorously write down ones and zeroes in pencil — the tedium of algorithms is convincingly conveyed!

For recreation, Robert plays in his sister’s punk-rock band, Annie and the Underdogs, a garage band too afraid of playing in public. On many levels we quickly cognate that Robert’s pedestrian life is going nowhere.

Until ... one evening on his walk home, a local entrepreneur Phil Sylocate  (Will Close) sells him a  “a man made of clay who can only obey” and Robert’s life at home and work radically changes. Robert evolves into an updated version of Robert, trendily dressed, promoted and dating.

All of the human characters are played by a company of five (Esme Appleton, Rose Robinson, Shamira Turner, Will Close and Lillian Henley.  Close and Henley also play Henley’s jauntily, jazzy score that perfectly sets the pace and mood of the journey.

This energetic ensemble seamlessly interacts with Paul Barritt’s mesmeric back drops, to become the faces of animated bodies, which Suzanne Andrade’s precise and visionary direction tightly synchronises. The result is a kaleidoscope of crafted and complex interaction between live performance and an animated world.

At times its message may appear repetitive/clichéd to an adult audience, but with its dual warning about artificial intelligence and consumer capitalism these messages certainly need to be heard by all ages, especially anyone capable of being captivated by technology.

And I suppose it raises another vital question. Is this possibly the future face of the theatre? A must see! Thumbs up!