It’s relatively rare that a theatrical performance totally lives up to the hype but this is one example that, happily, bucks the trend.
Prior to its appearance in Brussels this week, Golem by the UK theatre company 1927, had performed all over the world, most recently in faraway Korea only last week. A huge success on its travels around the globe, it came glittered with plaudits such as being hailed as “brilliant and endlessly inventive.”
The good news is that, for once, the reality matches the hype. First, anyone attending this show has to prepare for something that is quite likely very different to what you may have experienced at a theatre in the past.
The story of Golem is based on Jewish folklore that suggested it was possible to turn a mound of clay into an animate slave-man. The Golem is a book by Gustav Meyrink but, here, the interpretation is pretty loose.
In this version, by Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt, the Golem begins life as an amiable sort of clay robot invented by a suspect character called Phil Sylocate and is acquired by a young man called Robert. He finds a job in a technology company called Binary Back Up Department which employs similar outcasts. But Golem Mark 1 then morphs in Golem Mark 2, who’s far less appealing and, eventually, appears to totally take over its inventor and master.
Along the way we are introduced to other curious characters such as Annie, who has a punk band, and Granny, who is given fondly dusting the portrait of her late husband.
You can take from all this what you will but the moral here appears to be a sideways swipe at the pace and potentially less pleasant aspects of modern technology. Mix in some very up-to-date commentary on political affairs and some very astute comic asides and you have a very innovative piece of work.But, arguably, the beauty of this show is the absolutely fantastic and inventive combination of theatre, film, comedy and animation.
The work was, apparently, at least three years in the making and, at the end of a 90-minute viewing, it is not difficult to see why it took so long to prepare. The detailed and tightly synchronised amination – effectively a handmade feature film – is quite dazzling and virtually amounts to a show-within-a-show.
Visually stunning, it is also intellectually stimulating (how often can you say about a visit to the theatre?) and, while its actual London debut was back in 2014, is perfectly in tune with today’s anxieties and concerns about “Big Brother” (in the form of tech companies and the like) gradually taking over our lives.
The scenes are quite short and you have just caught your breath at the sheer inventiveness of the last images when the next lot burst forth on the stage.The performances by the small but clearly highly talented group of actors is top notch with two of them somehow managing to combine appearing in the show itself with, additionally, playing on piano and drums. Billed as an anti –iPad, anti-consumerist piece, this is merely the latest work by the 1927 (the years the talkies were introduced) theatre company to be lauded.
The Times described it as “funny, unsettling and unforgettable” while the Telegraph said it was “groundbreaking with strokes of genius”. One critic even compared it to Metropolis, the timeless classic by Frizt Lang way back in, yes you guessed it, 1927.
It all amounts to a 90-minute theatrical treat and should not be missed. In fact, if you get a chance to see it a second time during its Brussels run, then do so – it is that good (and clever). The irony, of course, is that one of the show’s greatest strengths is that it is telling a partly “anti-technology” story by superb use of … technology.
The show is quite dark and contains a few light swear words and some jokes which might go over the heads of younger children. However the piece is suitable for mature children aged 12 and upward, if accompanied by parents or guardians.
Golem has been on tour all over the world so you’d be well advised to try and grab a performance while it is in Brussels. You can be assured that you will leave the auditorium with your faith in the creative brilliance of theatre fully restored.
Good to Know:
Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles
Address: Boulevard Emile Jacqmain 111 – 1000 Brussels
The show runs until 2 December at the National Theatre which, once again this season, is organising a range of family activities, including workshops.