City Park, Glasgow
A clinical office block housed inside an old tobacco factory is the perfect venue for this suite of three plays exploring the dehumanising effects of technology brought together by director Cora Bissett for the National Theatre of Scotland. When such worlds collide within each play - one full of life and character, the other cold and soulless - we get to the beating heart of what matters beyond Garry Boyle’s largely electronic sound design that pulses proceedings.
In Darklands, Morna Pearson positions gloriously potty-mouthed Doric couple Brie and Logan inside a glass box trying for a baby under the scrutiny of a disembodied voice playing God. Metaverse finds Hannah Khalil’s mother and daughter attempting to keep their umbilical connection alive by communicating through virtual reality. Finally, Glowstick is Vlad Butucea’s tender study of a wheelchair-bound older woman called River her carer, an android called Ida, and the liberation they offer each other.
Seen across two stages created by Jen McGinley’s retro-future minimalist design, the three plays are connected conceptually as they expose glitches in a system controlled by the all-pervading presence of a body known only as The Company. This treats the everyday mess of flesh and blood relationships as homogenous commodities having the life sucked out of them. Such sci-fi tropes of social engineering may be familiar, but in the current climate they are full of heart and soul in a collective plea for humanity.
With Simon Wilkinson’s by turns stark and celestial lighting working alongside Gail Sneddon’s video design, the four actors are freed up to have some fun amidst the show’s serious points. Shyvonne Ahmmad and Nicholas Ralph are both ferociously comic and touchingly poignant as Pearson’s couple, with Ahmmad also playing the daughter opposite Maureen Beattie as her mother and Moyo Akande as an apparent fellow traveller in Khalil’s play. Finally, Beattie as River and Akande as Ida transcend the bounds of bad-tech as Butucea lays bare the power of the imagination that liberated us from being cogs in the machine to connect us all.
The Herald, March 20th 2019