Tobacco Factory Theatre’s Spielman Theatre, Bristol – until 30 March 2019
Intronauts, the new co-production from Green Ginger and the Nordland Visual Theatre is a work badly in need of a writer. Taking up residence in the Spielman Theatre, the Tobacco Factory Theatre’s small studio space, it’s a work that is visually compelling and aurally pressing, a work designed as a feast for the senses, but one at the mercy of feeling inconsequential as its narrative stays resolutely lo-fi.
It’s a work that asks what society does when it isolates itself. Adam Fuller’s man, stands alone, centre stage, swiping away at his work screens, unable to choose between the colours blue and red. He is stuck in some form of purgatory, a decision never to be made but constantly debated, like the tramps waiting day after day for an unknown benefactor in Beckett’s Godot.
His only form of communication is with an upgraded form of Alexa, residing inside of him and tasked to help him with all of his sensory needs. Emma Keaveney-Roys is a hoot as the technician, a segment where she plans, gets ready for and attends a night out, all in the cramped locations of her ship, made out to look like a rag-tag VW Van, is a miniature master-class in physical comedy.
The programme notes mention that lead designer Chris Pirie was most inspired by the 1960s comic book strip of The Numskulls and the sci-fi film Fantastic Voyage but what it reminded me of most was Pixar’s masterpiece Inside Out, especially late on as technician boldly goes into the brain. Yet this is a work that lacks both that works charm, heart and humour.
If that work used a family film with all the expected jokes to interrogate the feelings of sadness in young people, this never gets beyond its impressive design aesthetic. It runs to only 55 minutes but even with this short running time, there is barely content to support half this running time and very little sense of jeopardy outside of an intestinal itch that Fuller needs scratching.
In a work that nails the banner to the mast for theatre moulded from the design perspective, it mostly defines the key role a writer makes. The whole thing is lacking a sharp edit and snappy dialogue. The design may be scorching, a scintillating display of projects, mechanical engineering and human dressed blood capsules, but if it doesn’t have a text that can match it, the whole thing falls flat as a piece of theatre.
There is so much potential in what Green Ginger does, displayed in their rather wonderful Outpost a couple of years back, but this just doesn’t hit the right sensory notes. The itch certainly isn’t scratched here.
Intronauts plays at The Spielman Theatre until the 30 March