Theatre Review: 1927’s Golem, Trafalgar Studios

Features / One Of Us / Theatre / Words

30 Apr 15

A Golem (‘go-lem’) is a robot made out of reddish-brown clay, which looks like a giant Morph (look it up) and can be purchased as a servant, to assist you with your everyday life and only do as its owner commands. The problem is, with every automated upgrade, a Golem will become increasingly autonomous as it tempts its owner ever-further into consumerism and conformity. Sound familiar? Yes, Golem is a fable on the thoroughly modern predicament of being subjected to the agendas of large corporations via wireless technology. Tuning out? Well don’t, because despite this frankly miserable premise, Golem is a feast for the eyes and the funny bone, allowing the play to deliver its message with a wink and a tickle, not a sledgehammer.

Salzburger Festspiele 2014- Golem -Landestheater Salzburg

The story centres around a uniformly strange set of oddballs, all in some way connected to Robert (played with gurning, geektastic glee by Shamira Turner), a pathologically off-trend twentysomething who works in an office where backed-up digital data is backed up a second time. He fancies deep-voiced Joy from stationary and his sister Annie is the lead singer of their band, Annie and the Underdogs, a well-meaning punk outfit with as much clout as a blancmange – despite all the screaming they do. Robert and Annie live quietly with Gran, until the (initially) mute Golem arrives, taking over the chores and eventually the independent thinking, leaving the family ‘free’ to conform and consume, seemingly driven by the will of a faceless, all-seeing corporation.

What makes Golem a joy to watch is the playfulness and eccentricity with which it’s delivered. The play portrays an odd parallel world to our own, in which every character is slightly sinister and speaks with a mangled, vaguely ridiculous voice, but humour is a constant presence: each Golem comes inexplicably equipped with a swinging stubby penis, which all the characters are too polite to question; Robert is gleefully, silently poked by a jogging woman on his daily commute for no reason. Scenes are set by an endless series of projected animations which the actors reside in and interact with, all following a dream-like, sepia-filtered aesthetic which is a bit like The Addams Family meets The Magic Roundabout or perhaps a less terrifying version of Salad Fingers. The action is almost continuously soundtracked by instruments played at the edge of the stage and most of the dialogue is liltingly poetic, full of repetition and rhyming. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and the sum of all of these parts makes for compelling and entertaining viewing.

Salzburger Festspiele 2014 - Golem - Landestheater Salzburg

The 90 minutes (no interval) flew by but unfortunately, the play ends abruptly with a reunion performance by Annie and the Underdogs, all members now utterly enslaved to Golem, dressed identically and yet still delivering a redundant punk message. The Underdogs played their final note, the lights went out and we clapped, but I suddenly felt like I had just been told off. In spite of the abundance of humour which snakes through the play, the conclusion is bleak and moralistic, which certainly delivers a strong message but lacks the lighter touch which works so well for the preceeding 89 minutes. Maybe producers 1927 and The Young Vic feel that today’s technicolour ADHD audience need to have subtext spelt out. This jarring aspect aside, I urge you to get yourself to Golem for a thought-provoking, hilariously fantastical evening that will make you think twice about buying bloody Google Glass.