Aug 25 2019 | By More

★★★☆☆  Intriguingly lop-sided

theSpace on North Bridge (Venue 36): Mon 12– Sat 24 Aug2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Surveillance, by Anomaly Theatre at theSpace on North Bridge, is a collection of items about ‘big data’ and the surveillance society that is somewhat hit-and-miss but has some fascinating elements.

There are three discrete parts to the production, written and directed by Jack Jackman – two scenes that are really review sketches, and a third part that is much more expansive.

Alyssa Muego and Thomas Jaffray. Pic Anomaly Theatre

The first scene, featuring an apparent dilemma over whether operatives at an agency responsible for snooping should report something discovered during an unauthorised hack, is little more than a squib. It is difficult to care about the moral dilemmas of characters set up as utterly unsympathetic.

The second playlet seeks to tell us that the tech companies who provide us with our shiny social media may – gasp – be in it for themselves, rather than just our benefit. This is even slighter; both of these sketches are, however, given life by Thomas Jaffray and Alyssa Muego, whose energy and timing are very impressive.

The third section, which dominates the production, is a very different beast. Ry Herman and Jackman himself are academics at a university in conflict over a plan to implant subcutaneous chips in students and staff ‘for security purposes’. Suddenly, we are in a situation featuring recognisable humans, with a back story and a plot that goes somewhere, rather than just presenting an undeveloped comic idea.

switches in tone

There is something about this scenario that rings far truer than the earlier skits, and there is a momentum to the story that carries it through some unlikely switches in tone and plot. The underlying relationship between the two characters goes a long way to doing this, as does the emotional force of Herman and Jackman. What starts out as just another sketch seems to burst out of its format, as if it just had to.

A scene from Surveillance. Pic: Anomaly Theatre

There are good ideas all through the production – the way the audience are greeted as they come in, and the way the first scene seems to arise naturally out of this interaction – but it still struggles to come off as a unified whole.

The much more coherent nature of the last story shows, however, that Jackman is certainly capable of such unity, and he just needs to find a way of knitting his ideas together – and keeping the ones that don’t fit for later – to become a force to be reckoned with.

Running time 55 minutes (no interval)
theSpace on North Bridge, North Bridge, EH1 1SD (Venue 36)
Monday 12– Saturday 24 August 2019
Mon 12 – Sat 17: 11.10am; Mon 19 – Sat 24: 9.10pm
Tickets and details:

Facebook: @anomalytheatre
Twitter: @AnomalyTheatre


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