I was really excited to see Opolis at Live Theatre. I have never seen a piece of theatre in the sci-fi genre, and my experience of Alphabetti’s work has included more contemporary pieces, so I couldn’t wait to see what would be done with this new territory, especially in the hands of the theatre’s own artistic director.
The play follows two characters in the aftermath of a crisis left ambiguous that dramatically changes the world, in the technological landscape of Opolis. Julie, played by Christina Berriman Dawson, is from the pre-crisis generation, and wishes to escape this world where citizens are forced to exercise in exchange for shelter and currency, and the trade is in memories. Attempting to leave, she comes into contact with a younger character played by Kae Grayson who works for Opolis, and has very different views on the world they find themselves in.
Opolis explored some really interesting ideas in a subtle, ambiguous way. For example, in touched on the inequality that comes with physical labour for those who are less able, and explored what it means to call an experience real or your own. Much of the play was just conversation between the two characters, but it felt tense and dramatic throughout, especially towards the end of the play when the unsettling twist is revealed.
However, I think I may have had some misguided expectations for the show. The marketing for me hinted at TV like Black Mirror and films like Ex Machina, all coming from this movement of futuristic, doom-stricken work about technology. I have found this really meaningful and interesting with how much technology plays a part in our modern lives, so I think I had very high expectations for the play. It touched on a lot of what I have seen before in similar work. However, although it wasn’t my cup of tea, I think it was a fantastic introduction to this genre, and it was so exciting to see relevant, new sci-fi theatre being produced, especially in a small independent venue.
It was incredibly ambitious to produce a story like this in theatre, especially on a small stage. I loved how the space was used to create the foreboding atmosphere. I particularly loved how sound was used on a fairly minimal stage to build up the tension, designed by Wilf Stone, and the use of lighting to represent the technology.
Although the play was not my favourite I’ve seen at Alphabetti, I was really glad to see such an interesting and thought-provoking piece of work. Seeing a story rooted in technology being performed in the traditionally analogue world of theatre was something I would love to see more of, and I left feeling excited and refreshed about the kind of stories that could brought to life in our local theatres in Newcastle.