HOY POLLOY & THE BERLIN DAYZ FESTIVAL: How many devices do we rely on daily? How many numbers do we hold in our head? What happens when one of our computers (perhaps our brain) ceases to function as it should?
How many devices do we rely on daily? How many numbers do we hold in our head? What happens when one of our computers (perhaps our brain) ceases to function as it should? The notion of connectivity, of each node in this vast social network performing flawlessly and in perfect harmony, begins to crumble around the characters and chorus of Falk Richter’s Electronic City
, presented by Hoy Polloy as part of the Berlin Dayz festival.
We’ve all stood at the ATM in a moment of blind panic trying to remember our PIN. We’ve all experienced the paralysis that comes from being the only human (and therefore supposedly the only fallible) link in the processes that are meant to serve us when they break down because of us. There is a unique helplessness to not knowing which button to press. Often there’s nobody around to help you and you know you should be able to make things work – but just can’t; it’s the feeling that the world doesn’t belong to you any more, that maybe it’s moved into an age of technology you just can’t understand. In short, it’s a terrifying new form of isolation for the modern age.
Richter’s text, translated here by Daniel Brunet, plunges us into this crisis moment for two characters – Tom and Joy – as they navigate a world of hotels and airports, frozen in a moment of technological failure. Tom can’t remember the entry code to his hotel room; Joy’s scanner won’t process the sushi orders of a line of faceless commuters. They are linked not only by blind panic and downtime but a tenuous thread of (dare they say it?) love that, somehow born from rage, manages to survive the bizarre distance of their hyper-modern lives.
The play and performance resists conventional narrative. A chorus of six black-clad voices, ostensibly a documentary or film crew, stop and start the action, demand further explanation (or better performance) and whisk us through Tom and Joy’s crisis with an impersonal and cynical edge. This alienation makes Electronic City
a fascinating piece of post-dramatic theatre. You’re constantly made aware that you’re watching a performance; the challenge to engage with it mirrors Tom and Joy’s challenge to overcome their moment of technological aphasia and we’re made to share it with them. The chorus do a wonderful job – their physical work enlivens a bare stage and their handling of a complex, fragmented text is near perfect.
As Tom and Joy, Dan Walls and Sarah Ogden sustain their panic and allow themselves to be buffeted victims of the chorus and their circumstances. In many ways the chorus are actually the stars of the piece, but Walls and Ogden give us their characters as a way in, a starting point from which the exploration can begin. This presentation of Electronic City
is a fine and very tight ensemble performance.
Wayne Pearn’s direction and Kat Chan’s design both exhibit a light touch which frees the actors to openly explore Richter’s ideas. There are no theatrical tricks on display here, simply a thought provoking text well performed.
HOY POLLOY and THE BERLIN DAYZ FESTIVAL present
Electronic City by Falk Richter, translated by Daniel Brunet
12 - 17 November, 2010
For more information check the ArtsHub events listing by clicking HERE
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