We know technology is messing with who we are, and we vaguely know the consequences aren’t good. But we’re willing to defer panicking about it until an identity fraudster nicks our cash, or a stranger tracks down our home address on the internet, just as long as we get our Facebook fix and our Nectar points keep clocking up.
In these six new short pieces by Edinburgh company Anomaly Theatre, a team of six actors play out sinister scenarios brought about by our confused modern sense of self. Several come across as morality plays, some more like farce. Each comes with an unseen twist, and all of them are tightly written (by director/performer Jack Jackman), cramming lots into their short lifespan.
The two strongest plays are upfront. In the first, a door-to-door saleswoman slowly reveals she has a sinister amount of insider knowledge about her potential client. It’s Big Data of course, the interminable amount of information clocked up as we make purchases and conduct our lives online. She begins to sound more and more like her victim’s conscience as she details what she knows about him, and it could make a few audience members squirm uncomfortably too.
The second is set in a designer baby lab where two scientists are preparing their next made-to-measure foetus. This has a lot to say about the potential pitfalls of this technology, beyond the basic ethical dilemma. It paints a picture of how “normals” could be discriminated against by the pre-designed, and how investing in genetic tweaks might be as natural a part of giving the kids a headstart as private school or extra tutoring are to some today.
Not every sketch is quite as effective. A cop-shop interviewer-interviewee identity swap is a touch unclear, though it does allow Serena Doran to show a nice range of accents, and a wedding planner scene with a woman who has multiple mothers is a great comic idea that doesn’t fulfil all its potential. The acting does betray the fact it’s an amateur production in places, although there’s nothing wrong with it for this level.
It’s the ideas that stand out though. The writing is clever, with the odd witticism and bon mot thrown in, the format allows a lot of ground to be covered, and interest is kept high. You’ll be checking your facebook security settings afterwards for sure.