Golem: Modern Dystopian Tale at the Bristol Old Vic

What is a golem? According to Jewish folklore, it’s a myth suggesting that by using the right incantations, you can turn a mound of clay into animate flesh to be your servant. It’s an old story that UK production company 1927 used loosely to play with in a 90-minute theatrical spectacle with a take on modern society. Politics, aesthetics, culture, day-to-day life, technology – it’s all there.

The setting is socialist Britain, where things and people are set in their ways, with not much novelty to be had. The protagonist is Robert Robertson, who works a dull job as a basic coder (“backup of the backup”), and lives with his grandmother and sister Annie. Robert and Annie have a punk band for which they rehearse regularly in the basement, but they don’t perform in public due to too much anxiety.

They both have quirky personalities and don’t have many aspirations in life. Until the golem appears. Golem version one  is a big clay man who does your work and shops for you, and eventually starts to have his own opinions which he slowly imposes on you, like what shoes will make you look more fashionable, what you should watch, and who you should date. It has the power to make you feel in-charge, without making any decisions. Golem two is faster, ergonomic, more efficient. The latest version is a chip implant in your brain.

Apart from the important messaging – that the digital world is efficient and ‘easy’, but we are giving away power to a ‘monster’ – the power of the play lies in its ingenious mix of elements used throughout: projection, powerful graphic visuals, an interesting script and fun acting. 1927 invented a modern way of storytelling, incorporating images, advertisements, machines and virtual reality.

What is a golem? It can be your Amazon Echo or your iPhone. It’s all the voices screaming for your attention in today’s world.

Golem is a truly innovative show that deserves top credit. Make sure to catch it until 3rd of June at the Bristol Old Vic.

Photos: Bernhard Mueller