1927’s Golem: A Review
Last week 1927 blessed Liverpool’s Playhouse theatre with their discombobulated, dystopian production Golem. A mixture of Jewish mythology and a contemporary Frankenstein tale: Golem heeds a warning to viewers of the dangers of capitalism.
The 1927 team is known for their unique fusion of live performance (written by Suzanna Andrade) and animation (illustrated by Paul Britt), which opens up whole new realms of creative possibilities on the stage. In the Q&A members of the Golem team explained that in order for the final product to come together – which involves the actors flawlessly interacting with animated backdrop – 9 months of preparation went into the making of Golem. Each animation had to be painstakingly tailored to fit the actors and then redrawn multiple times to insure the graphics match up with what is happening on stage. For this reason, when recasting Golem, the actors picked had to match the size and height of the previous cast members, to insure know reconfigurations were necessary. The actors also have to rehearse every step they take on the stage to be perfectly in sync with graphic background behind them.
Due to their astounding hard work and long months of precise coordination between the tech and the physical, Golem seamlessly transports you into the beautifully obscene world of the Robertson family. They live in a bizarre amalgamation of bleak soviet and modern western society, where Russian oligarchs own much of the neighbourhood, the workers go to your run of the mill northern pubs – containing an oxymoronically named soviet fruit machine – and the shops have names implying they do what it says on the shop front such as: Bog Standard Restaurant. Every detail of this world has been meticulously thought out, and these whimsical features make the 2D world the Robertson’s inhabit jump off the projection. The Robertson’s consist of Mrs Robertson and her two grandchildren: Annie, the lead singer of political punk band Annie and the Underdogs, who are “not really musical but political” and grandson Robert Robertson who “smells of unwashed hair and mathematics”. It is explained that they live with their grandmother because their mother, who dies her red her black which makes her look like a “young Gaddafi”, left the children to practice hedonist acts. I am in awe of writer Suzanna Andrade’s sense of humour, as her wit ranges from the crude to the extremely political or culturally reference and not once did they fail to land.
While this production was hysterical, it was also extremely disconcerting. As the story progressed and the Golem became more corrupted by corrupt greed, this was inflicted on the family. Golem clearly showed how notions of individuality could be absorbed into the world of capitalism, making commercial decisions appear to be personal. Even the punk singer Annie is almost sucked into the Golem’s world of greed as it is pointed out that the ‘alternative’ lifestyle is just another commodity, a brand to be bought and sold to the masses. At points you could not help but feel rushes of discomfort and guilt over the mass-manufactured garments you were wearing, the apps that select their advertisements specifically for you or the ‘individualistic’ items you had received waiting for you in an ASOS package at home.
The irony of such a technologically advanced production highlighting the dangers of technology did not go amiss in the Q&A. The team explained that it is a topic that has been heavily debated throughout the creation of Golem. Their conclusion being that it is not technology itself that is a problem as it has benefited society ethically, medically and politically in many ways. The real danger is dependent on in who is controlling technology. Depicted in Golem by the green apparition that floats into the clay creature. The golem is at first used only for household chores but quickly becomes a living advertisement convincing the Robertson’s of ‘necessary’ purchases that will insure they have more leisure time. Gradually the creature takes over all aspects of the Robertson’s lives making them obsolete in their own existence.
For me, 1927’s Golem ticked all the boxes, then drew in it’s own to mark them off as well. I never imagined that a live performance, claymation and animated production could exist harmoniously. Let alone simultaneously fill me with such an enjoyable concoction of consumer guilt, technology based paranoia and uncontrollable laughter.