The future is closer than you think. Before the lights go up on the Irish premiere of Stacey Gregg’s drama, produced by the White Label collective, our eyes scroll upwards to slick preshow footage: advertisements for human enhancement technology and footage of ‘anti-tech’ protests. The proscenium arch has gone multi-screen.
A bombardment of different video feeds (the product of Kilian Waters’s fantastic design) might be the most appropriate way to frame a future where technologies are either convenient or out of hand. Mark (Shane O’Reilly) and Violet (George Hanover) met as tech protestors before running away to raise their future child closer to nature. When it’s discovered that Violet had ‘an augmentation’ to fix a lazy eye in the past, a rift sets in between them.
Ushering us into an uncertain future, Gregg asks some challenging questions about human enhancement. Aren’t evolved prosthetics just an extension of existing technologies such as braces and glasses? If you named your vibrator, why not personalise a robot companion? A society of augmented folk is thrillingly imagined but the contempt for them feels familiar enough, as Mark’s bile resembles ethnocentric violence of the present.
It’s not a smooth back and forth. The drama has its own glitches, specifically a habit of neurotically changing direction. That could lead to exaggerated playing but O’Reilly delivers a neat mix of longing and loathing while Hannover exudes self-control, whether with flashes of wit or a slow drag of a cigarette.
Well judged performances alone won’t solve the wonky trajectory of Gregg’s play but, by God, Sophie Motley’s direction is determined to keep order; every inch of the staging is a calculation. Similarly, designer Sarah Jane Shiels cleverly folds in technologies old and new, building a refuge in the natural world out of cheap imitative materials, with a large computer screen placed centre stage. Combined with Peter Power’s compositions – a rush of dizzying mixes and pop hits of the present – the staging presents arresting visuals and tripping illusions.
It leads to an interesting impasse. Is Gregg palming off the fetishisation of technology as something obscene or as something beyond our current understanding? In Motley’s staging, outlandish displays are strangely beautiful. They point less to the pathetic nature of trying to raise a glass lantern to human lips, and more to the persistence of humans to explore physical substances, light and the universe.
Override is on at the Dublin Fringe until 17th September 2016. Click here for more details.