Golem, currently running at Trafalgar Studios in London, is a real gift from the theatre company 1927. It dazzles, terrifies and descends into madness as quickly as you can say – “surely we should have seen how technology would ultimately build a monotonous monopoly within our everyday lives, to enable a minority to profit from the misery of everybody else.”
Whilst having a drink before the show, the assistant director of the best theatre production I’ve seen all year told me that I was about to go and see the actual best theatre production, in Golem, that I’d see all year, and everyone else who I’d spoken to who saw the show during its earlier run at the Young Vic told me that it was sublime.
Based on the Jewish myth of the Golem, a mythical creature who is made of inanimate material and is controlled by a master, the play follows a young man who despite having a good heart comes across as a failure in all of his endeavours. While he doesn’t seem to mind the status quo, as soon as the prospect of change comes his way, he begins to lose the morality and common sense that is reckoned to have kept him behind.
Set at some time, in some place, Golem takes a look at a world that is quickly being steered out of our control. Given the subject matter, a future where the human race has lost control of its consumption and is being taken over for profit, the comparisons to Huxley and Orwell are obvious and overwhelming meant as compliments, but it’s the timelessness of this play that really captivated me.
Beyond the few contemporary references within the play, there was little to indicate that the dystopia the audience finds themselves observing is of the modern day. If I had to point out a place and point in history for the plays setting, I’d stick my pin in 1932 Alsace-Lorraine.
It brings in the glamour of France between the wars is demonstrated with music and animation, combined with the utilitarianism of a Germany in the same era shown through a story of compliance and brainwashing, creates an environment where hedonism can only be achieved by seizing control rather than by the sharing of love.
This modern parable doesn’t plead with you to engage, it takes you and throws you into the darkness within the play that is lurking behind the greed and betrayals of family, colleagues and loved ones. It creeps up on you, with bright lights and jingles, asphyxiating you until you have to scream out for ‘Go! breathe’ to come to the rescue.
Besides the original plot, and the superb performances by the five actors involved, the play is visually incredible. The video combines with the actors, who demonstrate a skill level of physical theatre I’ve not seen in a straight play before, to almost animate them and carry them into the other world.
1927 have, with Golem, changed contemporary theatre. And by staging it, the Trafalgar Theatre has once again made the supposed cutting edge of theatre look more like the blunt side of a butter knife. The Pride, Richard III, East is East, The Ruling Class, and many more have graced their stages over the last few years, and with every risk they take they’re edging the competition towards irrelevance.
It’s all too often said that you’re missing out if you don’t see something, but for once, it is true. This fantastical delight is only on for a short run and when in five years half the new shows have an element of Golem, you’ll be able to say you were there at the birth of innovative genius.I’ve already booked again.
Tickets: £45.00, £20 Box Office: 0844 871 7632