DramaNorth WestReview

Tmesis Theatre: Beyond Belief – The Lowry, Salford

Text: Chris Fittock

Artistic Director: Elinor Randle

Reviewer: Peter Jacobs

Award-winning Tmesis Theatre are one of the UK’s leading physical theatre companies, creating vibrant and questioning touring theatre productions, workshops as well as delivering an annual festival – Physical Fest- all from their base in Liverpool. Their style is playful and curious, combining text, music, strong physical movement and dance, slapstick and drama.

Beyond Beliefposes the ‘simple’ question: What would happen if you could live forever? If you could bring your loved one back to life and resurrect their digital soul?

The show explores the nature and quality of human identity and loss and the commodification of identity and the ways all users of social media (especially) are complicit – often unthinkingly – in that process by not reading the small print and sharing the minutiae of our likes and interests and beliefs and emotions freely not just with friends and followers but with the software and algorithms that are sinisterly harvesting and aggregating them.

So the notion of a company like Beyond Belief one day having the ability (for a modest fee, of course) to offer a service where your loved one’s digital identity could be harvested and digitally preserved – and reinstalled into a replica body – seems like a dystopian inevitability. The show, however, approaches this big (data) subject with a light and ironic touch, following the story of Simon (Charles Sandford) and Chloe (Eleni Edipidi) as a series of fast-paced vignettes when death separates them.

The strength of the show lies in its tightly-choreographed, fizzy structure and the strong performances of the cast. Jennifer Essex, as Beyond Belief’s Executive Vice President, excels in playing characters so tightly-wound they are hanging onto sanity by a thread. Nick Crosbie is delightfully multifunctional and even the shakiness of his Elvis is charming. Eleni Edipidi is incredibly watchable as alongside her dancing ability she is blessed with a face that appears to be running multiple versions of the script to great comedic effect. Charles Sandford is solidly Everyman, trying to be decent: baffled and hurt by the world.

A fun and set and digital effects by The Kazimier and a witty selection of musical choices from Daft Punk to Elvis Presley complete the package.

Beyond Beliefrapidly sorts through the ideas on offer resulting in a quick-fire show that is thought-provoking and entertaining without being especially emotionally connective, although when they drop the pace it does allow the audience to pause and consider. Ultimately the show takes the idea to its logical conclusion – if life can be digitally preserved and reused in perpetuity what is the value of the actual in relation to the virtual? What is life beyond belief?

Reviewed 15 March 2019 | Image: Contributed

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