Kali Theatre Company
Vanbrugh Theatre and touring
Who are you?
How do you know?
What would you do if the world told you that you were someone else?
An identity card - a brilliant idea - until it goes wrong. This is the premise for Sayan Kent's new play which sees a Britain controlled by biometric identity cards. The whole population's details have been put on computer and those not fitting the requirements sent to Coventry. (This is a recurring joke that does get a little tired in a production so brimming with other ideas.) The rest of society lives relatively happily but entirely reliant on a corrupted computer system that can reassign identities at any given moment and for no apparent reason.
Much theatrical comedy is created through mistaken identity, or in the case of this production lost identity, which leaves room for farcial elements to creep into the text and direction. Whilst this enhances the ridiculousness of the emerging situations, it can also undermine the more serious moments in which the characters struggle to accept their reassigned roles in life. The scene in which Enoch Dawes (played sympathetically by Chand Martinez) is informed that he no longer officially exists could have been extremely moving, but instead, by playing on the frustration rather than despair of the character, the scene becomes semi-comical and more obviously part of the exposition. The multi-roling used throughout (for plot purposes I shall not divulge but become very obvious, very quickly) also treads this fine line between drama and comedy, leading to a moralistic final scene very much akin to pantomime.
All of the above, however, do work to create quirky and thought provoking viewing. Despite evading a specific genre, the script is somehow appealing and with such broadly written characters it is the scenes highlighting the absurdities of modern life and the satires of bureaucracy that become the stars rather than the actors.
The inclusion of historical character Thomas Payne discussing the freedom of man contrasted, as it should, with the homely setting that becomes a prison for Abi Tomlin. With a state of the art security system Abi (played with gusto by Shelley King) is unable to leave or re-enter her own home as the computer denies her identity. Freedom comes at a price and feeling safe does not mean that you are free. This message is reinforced by the use of projections and videos as part of the set design and the incessant beeping and scanning of computer equipment between scenes. Despite representing both work and home, the set very quickly becomes oppressive indicating how limiting life can be when you are entirely reliant on machines.
Covering so many themes from the actual threat of identity cards to the corruption of government this is a play that could have been gritty and emotional. Instead it is a light comedy full of the absurd and the eccentric and this works in its favour. With such likeable and ordinary characters living in such a dystopian future and having their lives torn apart the argument "It can happen to anyone" genuinely scares me- because it just might.
Until 18th April
Reviewer: Amy Yorston