THE COLLECTIVE (from East 15 Acting School).
THE LION & UNICORN THEATRE, CAMDEN FRINGE 2017.
Deft direction and a committed cast bring a chilling reality to this futuristic tale.
Imagined visions of the future are rarely optimistic about how humankind will evolve.
From movie classics like Bladerunner and Aliens, to novels such as Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic The Road, it seems that dystopia beckons us all irresistibly.
And in Ego, a newly devised show from The Collective, lives are strictly controlled from cradle to grave. Babies are taken from their mothers, identified by numbers, and steered relentlessly into a prescribed occupation.
‘I’ is no longer a word anyone knows how to use. The entire concept of individualism or any sense of self has been stamped out.
But not quite…
Equality 7-2521 is a young street sweeper whose innate sense of curiosity leads him far beyond the limits set by society. Played with mercurial delicacy by Felix Ryder, Equality 7-1521’s discovery of the delights of exploring, owning a contraband pet mouse, seeing himself in a mirror, and – fatally – falling in love, make his inevitable downfall a crushing climax to the show.
The play is based on Ayn Rand’s short novel Anthem, and was originally a 20-minute production, written and directed as part of student Alexandra Andrei’s BA World Performance course at East 15 Acting School.
All credit to the School for encouraging The Collective to expand this vibrant and promising piece of work, and for giving their students (Anais Reymond, Gabriel Janoras, Daisie Cockayne, Jasmine Hodgson and Harry Dean) an opportunity to stage it professionally as part of this year’s Camden Fringe.
With minimal staging and props, Andrei and the company draw on a wide range of theatre forms and multicultural traditions to create this grim world.
The ‘show, don’t tell’ physical theatre that sets the scene for much of the first half is choreographed with flowing energy.
While some of the motifs that emphasise the monontony of strictly controlled lives are repeated rather too frequently, they’re all executed with crisp precision, and carefully synchronised with the sound, also by Andrei, and Tara McGirr’s sharply defined lighting design.
There’s clearly enough material here to expand the spoken parts of the show, and the opening half could potentially benefit from further exploring its narrative possibilities.
But Ego is a fully realised production from The Collective, and is packed with flair, imagination and commitment.