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On the final evening of the Pulse Festival at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre, theatre company 1927 presented its acclaimed original production of Golem. This third show by 1927, is a co-production with such illustrious organisations as the Salzburg Festival (where it was premiered in 2014), Theatre de la Ville Paris, and the Young Vic Theatre.

Inspired by ancient mythological stories from mystical Jewish folklore, where a Golem was created by moulding clay into an animated slave being, 1927’s tale transported the audience into an alternative world. Blending a mixture of studio animation, projected claymation, live performance and music, the company’s dystopian fable endeavoured to explore who or what is controlling our lives and technologies. It was not simply an adaptation of the Golem myth, but an original telling which examined the relationship between a man and his Golem.  

Produced by the company’s founders, and Co-Artistic Directors, Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt, the play’s setting is located in a world where technology and the market economy have evolved to a point where the boundaries of human control have been transcended. The Golem becomes the must-have aid for a better and freer life – maybe like that depicted in the early publicity for Hoover vacuum cleaners!  However, what starts as an unthinking creation under the complete control of its owner, morphs from a giant humanoid lump of clay into an animate being capable of thinking for itself. Ultimately, a technological miniaturised Golem is produced which is transplanted into the heads of humans. So, who’s running things now, one might ask?

It would have been good to have given credit to the actors but, unfortunately, a programme hadn’t been provided by the company. However, the main protagonist, called Robert Robertson, was the focus of the play, and was transformed from being the keeper of his Golem into its slave. Research suggests that Lilian Henley was one of the cast as well as composer and pianist. Her compositions set the overall musical mood as that of the pre-WW2 German Weimar Republic, with visual inspiration emanating from Fritz Lang’s futuristic dystopian filmic masterpiece Metropolis, which was made in 1927 (surely, the company’s inspiration for its name). The audience was virtually blitzed with artistic references, but the other two that stood out for me were the Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times, and the Will Powers’ record and video Kissing with Confidence.      

To a relative newcomer to reviewing, plays as original and innovative as Golem push the boundaries of this reviewer’s skills, but I’ll proffer the opinion that this must be one of the most brilliant experiences in modern theatre. The interaction between the projected animation and the five live actors was simply stunning, and had to be seen to be believed. It kept the mainly youngish audience in rapt attention and amusement, as it did me.

Ipswich should be pleased that it was included in 1927’s UK and World touring schedule, which has included USA and China. The Pulse Festival did well to attract such an acclaimed production to the New Wolsey Theatre: yet another triumph for this venue, which goes on presenting such theatrical gems.

Review by Robert Carr, undergraduate on the BA (Hons) English course at the University of Suffolk.

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