A large shipping container appears to have been abandoned on the stage of the Traverse 1 performance space. The large lump of corrugated iron sits as an imposing backdrop, until the lights go down, the walls of the container slide away and the audience is introduced to the bleak and devastating science fiction world of Girl in The Machine.
Black Box is a slick new piece of wearable technology that sits on your head like a visor. It is a new form of virtual reality that gets into your brain and can read your thoughts and determine your well-being. It is a serious piece of kit that was originally developed to improve health. However, there appear to be adverse and addictive effects and this adversity sets the tone for the performance. In the realm of the Girl in The Machine people are electronically tagged. Computer chips are present under the skin and contain personal information that allow a greater power to keep track on the population.
Girl in The Machine is very much a three hander between lawyer Polly (Rosalind Sydney), her nurse husband Owen (Michael Dylan) and the soulless Black Box technology. Virtual Reality is a constant distraction. It is like a drug which drains the time, thoughts and motivation of Polly. She becomes addicted to the Black Box device and take pride in updating her personal profile on her electronic tag. E-mails from work take up her personal time and this causes a deep conflict with her husband Owen. Meanwhile there is a people’s movement against this consuming and intrusive technology. Riots and social unrest are taking place on the streets. However, Polly is oblivious and enamoured by the dazzling technology, whilst she ignores the world around her. This sets Polly on a downward spiral and tests her relationship with Owen.
The strength of the performance is in the writing. Polly’s depression is authentic and drastic and her personal decline is depicted by genuine and intimate methods. She cannot leave the technology alone and her depression causes her to slide away into the background of her previously exciting and interesting life. During this difficult time Owen expresses a complete love for Polly. He shows his admiration for the tangible real world we live in, as opposed to the augmented reality that has captured his wife. His distress feels heroic, despite the subtleties in his actions and his ultimately futile concerns. Stef Smith has written a powerful script that presents how technology is taking over our lives and affecting our relationships with one another. It is a bleak and alarming story, told with an authentic and engaging voice.