Review: Golem (1927 Productions)

Venue: Roslyn Packer Theatre at Walsh Bay (Sydney NSW), Mar 16 – 26, 2016
Playwright: Suzanne Andrade
Director: Suzanne Andrade
Film, Animation & Design: Paul Barritt
Music: Lillian Henley
Cast: Esme Appleton, Will Close, Lillian Henley, Rose Robinson, Shamira Turner
Images by Bernhard Müller

Theatre review
It is in the nature of cities around the world to be obsessed with progress. Some economies are determined to find opportunities in international markets to bring communities out of poverty, while others are simply caught up in capitalism’s readiness to encourage and facilitate greed. Whether intentions are noble or otherwise, all of us in developing and industrialised countries are on a fast train to a future shaped almost exclusively by concepts of financial and technological advancement. Suzanne Andrade’s Golem is not only about the fear of being left behind, it is also interested in the involuntary embroilment that we often find ourselves, fuelled by the voracious appetite of today’s way of the world, with its monetisation of virtually everything and the impossibility of detaching oneself from these increasingly sinister systems of economy. Andrade’s work leaves no room for doubt about damage that results from the insatiable process of consumption. Disguised as machines of betterment, we participate and contribute to a never-ending order of perpetual buying, one with increasingly bigger promises at every step of the way.

The show combines the projection of an animated film, with live actors and musicians. It is a unique aesthetic, thoroughly idiosyncratic with a wide appeal that many would find delightful. The performance involves a high level of precision and technical sophistication (ironic considering its critique of technology), for a captivating experience that is as satisfying as its themes are troubling. A sense of wonder pervades the production, with a child-like tone that would speak to audiences young and old. Its message is grave, but also simple. It spells out what we secretly know to be true, but prefer to leave uncovered for we fear its inevitability and know not to act against it. Reality does not allow us to turn back the hands of time, but on stage, Golem is able to do just that. With brilliant imagination and refined wizardry, the show takes us to an earlier period of our industrialisation, and charts the path of our irreversible progress. We recognise all its allegories, and respond with appreciation, to the way it voices our apprehensions about modern life.

No one truly knows how to tame that monster within. We see it do its dirty work, and acknowledge our complicities. Some of us remain aware of its every pitfall, while others choose to turn a blind eye. Golem offers no alternatives or solutions to the civilisation it disparages, and its nostalgic longing for an innocent past seems futile. The result is either a melancholy that finds no emancipation, or the embrace of a certainty that is not all light. Tales of pessimism do their part in reminding us of the oft forgotten dark sides of being, if only to turn us into more compassionate people, but we have to make the best of what we do have, and even though far from perfect, it is easy to recognise the elements that are good in the way we live today.