Writers: Jonathan Young and David Hermann
Music: Jonathan Young and David Hermann
Director: Jonathan Young
Reviewer: Jo Trainor
Tucked behind Dalston Kingsland station, the Old Boys Club is currently a cluttered, eclectic, Hipster’s paradise. Plush vintage sofas, plants, petrifying mannequins, peacock feathers and a bust of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, are among the possessions that rockstar, anarchist leader and self-professed ‘Messiah,’ Johnny O has kept safe from the totalitarian command of the Johnson Conglomerate that rules London. This dystopian future is a world created by company Nomanstime Automatics, by mixing influences of Kafka’s The Trial and the Greek myths of Orpheus; a frightening, fragmentary experience for its residents and anexceptionally engaging piece of theatre for its audience.
Actors Gabby Wong and Noah Young share all of the rôles in the piece. By using carefully constructed films alongside live performance, both are able to illustrate a large array of character skills. What is particularly spectacular is their use of physical theatre. Johnny O’s addiction to a number of drugs and vices, including a ‘mercer machine,’ is portrayed with a haunting physicality, as Young writhes in equal amounts of pleasure and agony across the length of floor. His pain at the loss of his popstar girlfriend, Alaiah poisons his body, and is distressing to watch. As his Juliet, Wong is far more fluid around the space; his aggressive stances and her malleable movements create an abusive relationship, that both individuals seem to oddly long for. For the audience, it is impossible to look away.
Although the first act is completely captivating, the content of second doesn’t seem to be from the same play. Mr J, as opposed to Kafka’s K, has been arrested after being beaten and robbed, a tactic by the Corporation to install fear and paranoia in the population. During these scenes, Wong plays the saucy neighbour and the warden, and though her interactions with Young are amusing, it’s just too stark a difference from the previous hour. If the two acts were intertwined, perhaps using more actors, then it would create a whole picture of life under an oppressive ruler with both comic and dramatic moments. However the two simply don’t fit together, and the audience finds itself wanting to know more about their singing saviours, rather than meeting an all too familiar character in J, that doesn’t have enough time to be properly developed.
On their leaflet and wordpress, Nomanstime Automatics claim that this is the ‘beginning of a journey,’ with ‘endless possibilities,’ and by continuing with this project, Working Title: The Orpheus Project will be a truly powerful piece of theatre. It’s just a shame that at the moment it ends on a low energy level and an idea that doesn’t really capture the writers’ or the actors’ full potential.
Runs until 30th January