"Your iPhone gets updated without you wanting it to, and then it says 'buy these shoes with just one click!'"
In its second year of production, cutting edge UK theatre company 1927's multiform stage work, Golem, makes it to Sydney through the STC. Written and directed by Suzanne Andrade, it's travelled to four countries, racking up five-star reviews, and has most recently dazzled its Adelaide Festival audience with its assembly of audiovisual wizardry, precision live movement, and percussive score by Lillian Henley. It's a bit Frankenstein, a bit Mad Max, and a bit Harvie Krumpet. Ensemble member and renowned UK comedic actor Rose Robinson says Golem is a remarkable and disturbing tale of how our clever technological advancements are changing us, and maybe seizing control of our lives.
"By day works in a binary office penciling zeros and ones into a ledger. By night he's in a very shy, revolutionary punk band."
"It's about a guy called Robert who is very ordinary," Robinson says, having just stepped into the Roslyn Packer Theatre a week-and-a-half out from opening. "He lives with his grandma and his sister, and by day works in a binary office penciling zeros and ones into a ledger. By night he's in a very shy, revolutionary punk band. He plays the keytar but they've never played a gig."
The show's dystopian explorations, in theme and aesthetic, are most apparent in the figure after which the show is named, as Robinson continues. "So this very nerdy guy buys this big clay servant who is intended to follow orders and do whatever he wants. It all starts fairly innocently but as the story goes on, Golem gets a bit big for his boots and starts to influence Robert, rather than the other way around."
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It's a feeling we all probably know a little too well, as we bow before our little screens, scrolling through 'content' and adverts. And then there's in-built obsolescence, which might be a conspiracy theory, but seems as rock solid a theory as phone charger cables being programmed to disintegrate into thin air as soon as you take your eye off them. "We think we influence machines, but then actually it's kind of going the other way," Robinson says. "Your iPhone gets updated without you wanting it to, and then it says 'Buy these shoes with just one click!'
"Robert gets deeply affected by this figure that slowly starts to suggest things that he might like to do. It then it becomes more overt, and then Golem becomes something really quite different to what he starts out as."
Robinson plays six different characters, including Robert's grandma and his girlfriend, Joy. Each is affected drastically by Robert's relationship with his behemoth. She also plays a chef obsessed with aspic jelly, and an octogenarian belly-dancer called Ruby Tuesday. "Shamira Turner plays Robert throughout but for the rest of us there are lots of silly voices going on in this dystopian world they're living in."
Golem the show is just as massive and potentially unwieldy as its namesake, the animated character, Robert's erstwhile servant. "It's a big mix of animation, claymation, live music and stylised performance, and tries to blend these elements seamlessly together. I've never done anything like it before. Helen [Mugridge], our production manager, has something like 500 animation cues. She has a really, really, seriously challenging job."
"There is a huge number of technological elements, and if you don't keep up with them, it'll run away with you," Robinson says.