I caught the very tail end of the Lincoln Center Festival 2016 in New York, and what a surprise was Golem!
Narrated by Annie–the frontwoman of a rebellious punk band doomed to never leave rehearsal due to stage fright–Golem centers around Annie’s keytar player slash brother, Robert Robertson, a pencil pusher in the binary backup department where he falls in love with the new stationery manager. But Robert’s contentedness with being an underling and winning the heart of a drab woman who may or may not trick Robert into having babies is thrown out the window when his friend, a failed inventor, has his stock of new inventions possessed by some kind of capitalist evil spirit.
The first golems are what you might expect from the traditional Jewish folktales or Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay. They are large clay men, little to no intelligence, loyal workers. Once they get AI, the line blurs between master and slave, and Robert’s golem develops an affinity for Benedict Cumberbatch. The second round of golems takes us to the present day. Not without commentary, the story ensures we see the similarity between the absurd idea of having a creature follow you around to plan your day and portable devices filled with apps that tell us what to wear, where to go, who to date. By the third round of golems, we are in the not-so-distant future where technology is woven imperceptively into the human mind and body. We start to feel sick as we realize how unabsurd this story actually is and that maybe these apps that are meant to take work off of our shoulders are really just shifting it to a different type of work, a work that makes our lives more mundane.
The stage show is half live action and half projection. The backdrop has an old school projector flicker, not unlike what you find as the backdrop to the film MirrorMask. Animated extra characters are on a two-second loop, putting me in mind of those 1980s Nintendo games like Paperboy. This retro feel is helped along by tink-tink-tink of the xylophone and the live jazzy music performed by members of the cast. The special effects are so seamless, you don’t always know they are special effects. I found myself realizing only in retrospect that WAIT! That person just disappeared from the stage to being on the screen and I never noticed the transition. Or WAIT! How did they project a buzzing fly or black coffee onto the faces of the actors who are standing in front of the screen? (I think this must have been done by blocking off part of their spotlights.) Well polished tricks. If you have a chance to see this or anything else by this London independent performance company, called 1927, it comes highly recommended from Anglonerd magazine!
Golem is written and directed by Suzanne Andrade and animated/designed by Paul Barritt. It stars Will Close, Esme Appleton, Lillian Henley, Rose Robinson, and Shamira Turner.