Experimental feature

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Experimental feature

1927 (the company) was first seen in 2007 (the year). Its show Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea established the template for what has come since: the dark side of English whimsy, like a nightmare Hermione Gingold narrating tales in which live figures interact with Expressionist/Constructivist video animations and music from the kind of Weimar-era cabaret best avoided. The company has subsequently enjoyed international success with The Animals and Children Took to the Streets and even fashioned a production of The Magic Flute for Berlin’s Komische Oper; its new work comes to London from co-producers the Salzburg Festival. And it’s a bleak, delightful, antique, topical treat in every way.

This year has seen the centenary not just of the outbreak of the first world war, but of the publication of Gustav Meyrink’s take on the Golem mythos. In Meyrink’s version the clay man stalks through a disjointed, Kafkaesque Prague; in Suzanne Andrade’s dramatisation, her protagonist Robert Robertson lives in a similarly trippy-yet-hyperreal modern city, part-London, part-Los Angeles, part-everywhere.

The roughly human-shaped clay figure he buys as a labour-saving device begins to show independent thought, then to offer “advice” which is really direction, with all the smoothness of an Iago. Soon Robert and his family are living the vapid, consumerist lifestyle favoured by the Golem’s new corporate masters. If Golem 1.0 was something of an iSore, Golem 2.0 is a higher-tech iFul and Golem 3.0 so pervasive that it is indistinguishable from the “I” of identity.

Yes, this is a parable about the perils of passive techno-consumerism and the illusion of choice. But it makes its point in a manner that is both mordant and deliciously sly. It incorporates nods to figures ranging from playwrights Karel Čapek and Friedrich Dürrenmatt to punk diva Poly Styrene and her band X-ray Spex . . . even, in the claymation of Golem 1.0, to early Aardman Animation hero Morph. Paul Barritt’s films are more colourful than before as well as more complex, and for the first time the company uses performers beyond its core quartet, but all of whom look like offcuts. You won’t find a smarter piece of fun, whose grin contains an unsettling gleam of fang.


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