Golem at the Bristol Old Vic

Last night I went to see Golem at the Bristol Old Vic. It was a bit mental, not like anything I’ve seen before, but absolutely in a good way. I wasn’t sure what to expect, the information beforehand and the trailer seemed mysterious, with strange pictures almost reminiscent of the weirder parts of Monty Pythons animations. Actually, that’s not a bad description of the animated backdrop – Monty Python given access to modern software. It doesn’t really begin to cover it though.

The most remarkable thing about this show in retrospect is the sheer technical skill in it’s production, from the quality of the constantly moving animated projections that make up the backdrop to the precision of the positioning of the actors who are always in just the right place with just the right movements to interact with the virtual characters. This was impressive when they appeared to be walking along a street next to a giant clay man, but stunning for things like writing on a wall, or drinking a very large virtual cup of coffee. Sometimes it was almost hard to tell whether a character was real or projected the lines between them felt so small. The acting was as stylised as the animation. In total it was surreal, beautiful. With the quality of the hypnotic music driving the story along it became completely absorbing.

It’s worth noting that just five actors were on stage, with two of them also providing much of the music via a drum kit and synthesiser that were either side of the stage. It’s hard to say what it was about – not because it was difficult to follow, but because there was so much there, from the names of shops that flashed by on the projected walks along streets to the details of sung lyrics, throwaway lines and peculiar costumes. The simple story was of a society who discovered golems, clay automata that feature in many folk tales as tireless workers who require no food or rest. First the golems serve, and give the people free time: then the golems start driving the use of that free time (Is he telling us what to do or does he know what we want before we do?) and then finally they are driving how society lives, works, dresses. Underlying this is mentions of media, ‘likes’, dating sites, messages about conformity and manipulation and ultimately about whether we are using technology or it is controlling us.

I loved this, and I wanted to see it again as soon as we left because I felt that I’d missed so much detail and so many happenings. On top of that the music, which on the surface seemed lively actually had an underlying hypnotic beat which I think became more so over the course of the show to the point where it was almost soporific, I felt at times like I was in a trance and certainly on the way home the rhythms kept going on and on in my head. In short, this was fantastic and I’d highly recommend seeing it

Reviewer Ginny Gould

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