This is a kill shot. A gripping, bold and exciting new work.
The star-crossed lovers in this play are, like Romeo and Juliet, from two houses in feud: opposing forces of politics. In this dystopia, in the not-too-distant future, London has been declared a city-state run by the Corporation, a vast, Orwellian monopoly, where Eliyah’s (Genevieve Dunn) uncle and guardian is a key figure. Johnny O (Noah Young), Eliyah’s celebrity boyfriend, is the son of a noted member of the Union, fighting against the Corporation. Skilfully interwoven is the story of Kasper J, worker bee for the Corporation, model citizen, guileless and about to have his life changed.
The performances by both actors are outstanding. The set, comprising table, chairs and two clothing racks on wheels, is used in unexpected and inventive ways as the actors move in and out of storytelling and into the characters who live in this world. Young transforms his posture, his presence and his voice as he becomes Johnny O: rock star, rebel, self-proclaimed messiah and not quite human. Dunn is variously femme fatale, enforcer and victim.
Director/writer Jonathon Young’s piece recalls the work of William Gibson (Neuromancer and Johnny Mnemonic), Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World without being derivative. The sound design (by David Hermann with Jonathon Young) with its loops and drones evokes Vangelis, and a later joke in the play about “tears in rain” confirms Bladerunner as a reference point (although the joke is over-explained). The contrast of this music with Glenn Miller big band tunes is incongruous and effective in establishing mood.
The physicality of this show is impressive; the opening dance choreography is sensual and violent, with a meaning that doesn’t become apparent until the end. The piece also incorporates multimedia, which helps establish the reality of the world without becoming overly expositional.
It’s not a play for everyone, but by golly if anyone had ever set out to design a piece with me as a target, incorporating so many of my favourite things (cyberpunk, noir, Glenn Miller, clever storytelling, questions about human brutality and betrayal), this is a kill shot. A gripping, bold and exciting new work.