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Girl in the Machine

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

The metal shipping container that fills the stage at the opening of Stef Smith's new play is a monumental reminder of how the world still moves through physical endeavour. This exterior of Neil Warmington's set may also be a nod to The Aftermath Dislocation Principle, ex K Foundation provocateur Jimmy Cauty's own container-clad installation containing a model of a post-riot world. Once the sides slide away here, however, an almost too orderly futuristic des-res is revealed.

Within its minimalist interior, high-flying lawyer Polly and nurse Owen live together in hectic disharmony in a future where citizens are required to wear implants that chart their every waking hour. When Owen gives Polly a present of a mental pacifier called a Black Box that he stole from the hospital, for Polly, at least, things change for the better. The couple even receive a complaint on Polly's iPad from a neighbour complaining about their 'excessive adult noises.'

What follows in Orla O'Loughlin's ice-cool and innately physical production is a stark warning about the dangers of becoming addicted to whatever hi-tech toy that promises you the world. In this respect, the Traverse's co-production with Edinburgh International Science Festival resembles an episode of dystopian TV series Black Mirror, but with a poetic heart worthy of Ray Bradbury at his warmest.

Michael Dylan's Owen and Rosalind Sydney's Polly become increasingly estranged, while Victoria Liddelle's disembodied voice of Black Box becomes all-pervading. It's a show that hums and throbs, not just because of Kim Moore's burbling electronic score, but through its plea for the flesh and blood messiness of life over the delusions provided by virtual pleasures during increasingly sour times.

The Herald, March 7th 2017

ends

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