REVIEW: Black Mirror-esque smart tech dystopia Act of Repair from Scottish Youth Theatre stuffed with ideas but needs fine-tuning to get properly plugged in to issues
Act of Repair
Eden Court, Inverness
UNDER the harsh neon glare of the lighting on a set filled with rectangular, right angled staging, Scottish Youth Theatre presented a world that was less than 90 degrees removed from our own.
Their new production Act of Repair is a production stuffed with ideas about our modern world and our overly-cosy relationship with modern technology.
Perhaps too stuffed with ideas – there are so many interesting ideas here surrounding this not-so-future world that are crammed into the play’s 70 minutes that none of them are really able to breathe and get under the skin.
This latest piece feels like one that was workshopped rather than scripted – individual scenes burst with power, but the narrative threads linking them need a little fine-tuning.
The main thrust of the narrative – the pervasive all-consuming tech company Olympia’s fete new smart homes – is realised excellently. The brainchild of company owner, 16-year-old wunderkind “Mr Stanley”, the houses are lotteried out to disadvantaged and poorer families, offering a world of hope and technological utopia.
Its Alexa analogy Hestia – keeping the Olympia theme alive by taking the name of the Greek goddess of the home – is portrayed as a disembodied voice and a silhouette behind blinds.
There’s something claustrophobic about how Act of Repair slowly turns the screw on Hestia’s influence on its characters lives in the first third, as it slowly begins to take over their shopping, their exercise routines, and their lives while pushing the Olympia products that may just fix them.
Some of the unhappy inhabitants find a bar that seems to offer a sanctum for them – Sanctuary, a place free from wi-fi – where they decide to fight back against these technological oppressions.
Running parallel to that are vignettes depicting the rise and fall of influencer Amber Latte – while her plot never really meshes with the main storyline, her final scenes as the digital mob turns is realised viscerally, uncomfortably and rather magnificently.
It’s a moment that could only work in theatre, unremoved from the screen the audience are confronted with the ugly humanity behind a digital hate mob.
A whole plot could have been spun out of this influencer’s story. As too could a whole plot be spun out of so many other characters – one of the disadvantages of trying to find something for everybody within a 20-strong ensemble of talented young performers is that in the end nobody really gets to fully showcase themselves.
But for all of this, there is something here. There are several things here. Act of Repair has so many interesting things to say about the modern world, it just needs to focus its message a little bit more in order to develop something truly plugged in to its issues.