Photo credit: Kobas Laska/Felipe Jóia
Override the erotic bionic
The body and our changing relationship to it, along with its evolving relationship to current and future technologies, is perhaps behind the huge increase in multimedia performances produced in recent years. Attempting to negotiate the new normal of the body as image mediated through media, the selfie the new act of self-expression, with countless ways to augment and enhance that image, multimedia works try reflect and embrace the lived experience of bodies in a digital landscape, bringing together the human and the technological in an act of performance. An often risky affair as technology doesn’t come cheap, doesn’t always work as it should and its impact on the performance is something of a dice roll. Stacey Gregg's latest play, the thought provoking 'Override’ walks squarely into this lion’s den of potential disaster and emerges utterly triumphant. Minor issues aside, ‘Override,’ seen in preview, is a powerful, stunning and visually impressive piece of theatre.
Gregg’s sci-fi study of the human and the technological centres around a couple, Mark and Violet, living in a dystopian future of A.I. and bionic augmentation, where everything exists in and on the screen. Where you can amputate a limb to get an enhanced replacement, or get a robotic sex companion so life like you want to marry her. But Mark is having none of it, and along with Violet sets up home away from all these technological dangers, so they can raise their unborn child free from the fear of technological interference. Kind of. For it seems both have something of a conflicted relationship to technology. Mark doesn’t seem to mind it once it stays outside of the body. Violet doesn’t seem to mind it in the body under certain circumstances, and has even named her vibrator Harold. Something Mark vehemently disapproves of, both the naming and the physically internalising of technology. Eventually matters come to a head as secrets are revealed and choices are made. Choices which remind us of our all too human fears, frailty and fallibility.
Gregg’s funny, tender and thought provoking script succeeds amazingly well, despite some distracting shortcomings. Whilst most of the sci-fi components are wonderfully well handled, making for easy suspension of disbelief, there’s a number of spaces in the narrative that either leave questions unanswered or stretch credibility. Referencing everything from ‘Bladerunner’ to ‘Ex Machina’ to ‘Robocop,’ Gregg cleverly constructs 'Override' as part debate, part story, crafting some hilarious, insightful and touching dialogue throughout. All of which is informed and supported by an excellent technical team whose meticulous attention to detail, which will keep Tiger Beer very happy indeed, left nothing unattended, nothing to chance, and was as essential to the experience as Gregg's insightful script. Set and LX designer, Sarah Jane Shiels, once again gives a masterclass in excellence, reinforcing her position as one of the best designers around, even if the cast struggle to vocally negotiate the large, cleverly placed, framed sheet of glass in the middle of the set. Video Designer, Kilian Waters, along with Video Design Associate, Daniel Keane and Music and Sound Designer, Peter Power each do an excellent job. From the cleverness of the preshow advertisements to the Big Brother live feed, to the swift, visually compelling and impeccable transitions, the precision is sheer perfection. As are Make-Up by Rachel Kinlehan and Costumes by Carrot Incorporations, whose sheer ingenuity make for some visually compelling moments.
Performances too are of the highest order, even if the character’s loving relationship isn’t always as believable as it might have been. Shane O’Reilly as the self-righteous Mark, a puritan at heart with a puritan’s sense of superiority and certainty, is always compelling, never more so that when he begins to understand the consequences of his choices. As is George Hanover, who is a joy and a revelation as the vital and vivacious Violet. If the end goes some way to redeeming them as a couple, key moments stretch the credibility of their relationship. With Mark all too often looking like a spoiled, squeamish, little boy, and Violet his reassuring Mum rather than wife and mother to their unborn child, it's often difficult to see them as lovers or to understand Mark's power dynamic in the relationship. Yet when they do connect, their dance is always a delight to behold. Director Sophie Motley does an outstanding job marshalling all these forces to craft what is ultimately an extraordinary multimedia production full of heart, humour and some hard hitting questions.
‘Override’ raises some fascinating questions around what the future may hold in terms of humanity, the body and its relationship to technology. Yet a more current and immediate question, with huge ramifications for the future, is equally being raised by ‘Override.’ Namely, the question of men exerting control over women and their bodies. Over the choices women may wish to make about their bodies. Over their right to choose freely without need of male permission or fear of male punishment. In this regard, ’Override’ is an unequivocal success. A visual feast, a multimedia masterclass, ‘Override’ is a smart, funny and deeply moving production that will have you thinking long after you've left the theatre.
'Override' by Stacey Gregg, produced by White Label, runs at The Project Arts Centre as part of The Tiger Dublin Fringe until September 17th
For information on time and tickets visit, The Project Arts Centre
For information on other festival shows visit The Tiger Dublin Fringe