Technological Phantasmagorias is an excellent example of style over substance. The production is a collection of three short plays and takes an interesting concept: use projections of human faces rather than live actors to tell stories.
First is Sleep My Baby Sleep, far and away the most successful of the three. The short play (fifteen minutes) centres on three ‘creatures’ which sit in a white-lighted limbo and talk about their existence. Using three small dolls propped on a shelf, the projections also manage to create a form of Brecht’s concept of ‘alienation’, removing emotional attachment one may form with the dolls and instead allows us to simply listen in on their conversation, which proves insightful and humorous.
Second is Samuel Beckett’s Comedie (Play), the least successful of the three. Beckett’s piece allows an audience to listen in on three people, a husband, his wife and his mistress, as they speak from urns, and it is written like a symphony of words. However, for this production, rather than finding a new way of making this play work, the projections quickly grow annoying, flashing on and off with quick staccato speed between the three faces when it’s their ‘turn’ to ‘speak’. The result is a production that feels like a missed opportunity rather than an enriched experience.
The final piece is The Blind. The play is about 12 blind people who are standing alone in an unknown location without the protection of their caretaker. Clocking in at 40 minutes and incorporating sound effects into the action, this is the most ambitious of the three. However, as this is the third piece to use the projected-actor style, the projections soon become cumbersome, resulting in the play loosing most of its dramatic grip. It also stops at a crucial point without much of a resolve. While the scenario presented doesn’t necessarily demand an ending that answers every question, a more adequate conclusion is warranted.
The biggest problem with the production in full is that each piece relies on the same tool: human-face projection on inanimate objects. While it is possible that each piece would work far better as individual performances, taken in at the same time the production quickly feels tedious and gimmicky. There is no denying the great skill that has gone into the production, and for that the production team should be commended. But at 80 minutes, watching all three pieces that use the same techniques quickly grows tiresome, which is a shame as there is nothing overtly wrong with the production as a whole.
Technological Pantasmagorias has impressive techniques and clever concepts. Those who like to marvel at abstract performance ideas will find much to admire; those looking for dramatic emotional substance will find the production as hollow as the onstage mannequins.
*Run completed at The Tramway