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Golem, 1927, Young Vic | reviews, news & interviews

Golem, 1927, Young Vic

Golem, 1927, Young Vic

Brilliant and endlessly inventive theatre from this young British company

"We are progressive. We believe in the new": the sinister authorities assert their consumerist brand of mind-controlBernhard Muller

British theatre company 1927 celebrate their 10th birthday next year. Over this nearly-decade they have produced just three shows (plus a reimagining of The Magic Flute for Berlin’s Komische Oper). If that seems a little like slacking then you’ve obviously never seen one of their creations. To say they are meticulous is true, but also fails to reflect the sense of imaginative excess, of abundance, that pulses through everything they make.

Animation, live action, music, song, dance and mime all have a place in their world. Theatre for 1927 is a four-dimensional affair, and Golem scores on every plane.

This latest show takes the company a step further in a process that started with after-dark fairytales (think Angela Carter rather than Hans Christian Anderson) in Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, moved through dark contemporary comedy in The Animals and Children Took to the Streets and now arrives at dystopian fable in Golem. Don’t be fooled by the laughs (and there are plenty) – this is no comedy. Calling this a Christmas show is rather like describing chocolate cake as nutritious. It misses the point – something that the titular Golem (a sentient robot-man made of clay) certainly doesn’t; he has a penis, something that pretty much sums up this show and this company.

A simple labour-saving device soon takes on sinister authority and autonomy

We open in a “high-definition world” ruled by a “soft-focus government”. Curiously catatonic people occupy themselves with “leisure” and “pleasure” and little else, while bombarded with self-improvement slogans. How did things end up this way? Cue a flashback to an earlier time when anarchy and jazz reigned and society seethed with social discontent and revolutionary spirit. Along comes Golem – the creation of a maverick nerd with poor social skills – a convenient clay solution to everyone’s problems, with an unexpected penchant for Benedict Cumberbatch. Why go to work when Golem can do it for you? Why cook, clean or shop when Golem is far more efficient? A simple labour-saving device soon takes on sinister authority and autonomy, but rather than turning the tale into a horror story, 1927 take this familiar conceit in an altogether different direction.

Consumerism and mass-technological dependence are the theme here, and if this world dominated by advertising and branded (blanded) experiences reminds us of anything then 1927 aren’t going to belabour the association. Questions of freedom and individual choice, fashion, family and identity are all raised but a satirically raised eyebrow and the company’s signature RP delivery keep anything from getting too earnest.

The real joy of the show is the detail. From the impeccable, arch spoken delivery of the cast to their minutely calibrated interaction with Paul Baritt’s animations (taking a rather Monty Python turn here), Lilian Henley’s all-too believable music for revolutionary punk band Annie and the Underdogs, and the skill with which Suzanne Andrade’s narrative turns the alien into the uncomfortably everyday, this is a show lavished with love and attention. There’s the wonderful sense that what we’re seeing is only a fraction of what has been thought and created, that as much if not more exists in the play’s back-story and evolution as makes it to the stage.

Credited only as “performers” (and with headshots designed to hinder rather than help identification) it’s impossible to single out individual cast members. Suffice it to say that all are excellent, but that Robert Robertson’s lurching walk and caressing vowels will linger with me longest.

1927’s theatrical world is always witty, stylish and Weimar-dark, but now comes sharpened to an ever finer political point. Agitprop with a directional haircut and excellent taste in books and films: if 1927 were a man I’d marry him tomorrow.

  • Golem at the Young Vic until 31 January
The real joy of a show that has been lavished with love and attention is the detail


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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