Reviewed by Carolyn Gunn on Friday, 12.11.10 for 3CR’s “Curtain Up” Sundays at 1.00pm on 855AM.Whilst German playwright and director Falk Richter is unknown to me, research indicates that he is a very innovative and politically engaged young writer and an academic who studied Philosophy, Theatre and Linguistics, hardly a surprise when the staged work was viewed. The core of this work came across to me as power and control – what is it, who has it and who doesn’t.
We see two different people who meet by accident – they are in a global city where personal existence and identity have shrunk due to the power of technology, commerce and the control these modern factors have over everyone and our helplessness in combating it - after all, we humans are now only numbers and passwords in and dependent on an impersonal global system.
Whilst I found it a hard call at times, the playwright is accurately confronting these controls, perhaps in a more intellectual way than most of us ordinary, everyday people express our frustrations. We are all trapped in a world of computerisation and electronics - the internet, mobile phones, trying to make a phone call to a corporation (all by numbers, press 1, press 2), then on a more basic and local level, let’s throw in our total lack of power with banks, utility companies and myki… and how often do we go to a bank to draw out money only to be told that the computers are down ... and so it goes.
Tom is a consultant, flying around the world and being totally dependent on technology starts to lose his grip on life – he is confused and disorientated. His lover Joy is less sophisticated, currently working at an airport in an isolated world of selling pre-packed sandwiches to businessmen in a hurry. Then, when she is alone in the store her automatic scanner breaks down and the system collapses – there is no help and her only outside contact within her own little employment ghetto is via her mobile phone….one thing leads to another, disaster starts ‘chipping’ away and the ‘electronic city’ starts to break down.
I am reminded of a personal trip to Indonesia some years ago when sitting next to an engineer who was flying to an outlying island, we talked about the advances of computerisation re his business there – he told me then that they still often had to fall back on the old ‘set square and compass’ principles when electronics failed; also, how often at home during an electricity failure are we rendered helpless and have to revert to the usages of that 18th century essential, the humble candle.
Tom (Dan Walls) and Joy (Sarah Ogden) tell their stories and we see their panic and disintegration as the play unfolds with their dread and terror (interspersed with some comedy) being hyped up by an ever present type of ‘Greek Chorus’ – this clever ensemble constantly interjecting, confusing Tom and Joy and winding them up.
The work is played out on an open stage with lighting being the only technical support and the ensemble acting more interestingly geared to the approaches of straight revue with it’s movement, vocal styles, timing and placement – a theatrical approach I always enjoy although a little relief in the black costuming and surrounds could have created more contrast and surprise.
This unsettling yet clever work, directed by Wayne Pearn for Hoy Polloy Theatre, reveals all too clearly our dependency on and entrapment in the geekish modernity of the 21st century by controlling, powerful, manipulative and profiteering commercialism...
Hoy Polloy’s production of “Electronic City” plays at the Mechanics Institute for Performing Arts, cnr Sydney & Glenlyon Roads – Tram Route 19 (from the City), Stop 21 until 27th November – Bookings 9016 3873 or email@example.com
Recommended for those who like their theatre to have a bit of a challenge ... running time about 75 minutes.