Writers: Clare Duffy and Abbi Greenland with Helen Goalen, Jon Spooner and Becky Wilkie
Directors: Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
According to the lyrics of a song in Future Bodies: ‘The future is coming -and it’s coming hard’; this is not a play where punches are pulled. Future Bodies compels the audience to consider complex intellectual and philosophical questions arising from rapid technological development and is demanding and utterly enthralling.
There has been an element of self-indulgence with past works from the Rash Dash Company; a sense of stuffing ideas into a play in the hope that some of them connect with the audience. Entering HOME and seeing Becky Wilkie stationed at the side of the stage dressed as a pregnant blue-skinned alien cranking out some impressively dirty rock and roll music does not really come as a surprise. However, Future Bodiesmarks a definite change of style for the Company moving away from feminist politics to a more rigorous demanding approach that remains fresh and off-centre.
Authors Clare Duffy and Abbi Greenland ( with their co-creators Helen Goalen, Jon Spooner and Becky Wilkie) explore the moral aspects of technological growth speculating that , in the future, it may be possible to devise a computer programme that will replicate the thought processes and personality of an individual thereby making him/her effectively immortal . The pros and cons of implants that will regulate emotion (and so eliminate anti-social behaviour) or connect people to computers on a permanent basis allowing greater efficiencies while also facilitating the monitoring of behaviour are examined.
Directors Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen subtly move the tone of the play from optimistic to apprehensive. Initially, all of the technological advances are seen in a positive light- cancer is curable and regarded as no more significant than low blood sugar. Lara Steward, who is profoundly deaf, plays a character choosing to reject treatment, as she does not regard deafness as a disability. As sign language allows her to swear at unsuspecting irritants, you can see her point. But gradually the element of choice is eliminated; the play speculates that agreeing to accept the imposition of technological ‘upgrades’ would become a contractual condition of employment and those unable to afford the highest quality would be left behind. The inevitable technical mishap is treated lightly but there is no doubt that the consequences could have more significant.
The play is staged as a series of short pieces moving forward across centuries. Potentially this could become irritating with so many scene changes breaking concentration. Yet there is a subtle link drawing the pieces together and creating a coherent whole as scenes towards the end reference characters from early scenes.
In a lovely touch, for a play about innovation, the closed captions surtitles become part of the action positioned close to the speaker like word balloons in comics rather than posted above the stage. When the sound is disrupted, the captions are also distorted.
The conclusion of the play, a bizarre mime/ dance suggesting a period of rapid intellectual or technological advancement will be followed by a reversion to inarticulate barbarism is not entirely successful but it is hard to imagine how such a challenging play might end otherwise.
Future Bodies is a thought-provoking and highly entertaining play that is (almost) future perfect.
Runs until 13 October 2018 | Image: Jonathan Keenan