Girl in the Machine
Love is not the only drug in Stef Smith's eerie sci-fi two-hander
It's the near future. On the surface, Polly (Rosalind Sydney) and Owen (Michael Dylan) seem a well-matched couple: attractive, and witty thirty somethings (she's a lawyer, he's a nurse). Yet Stef Smith's creepy yet beautiful sexually-charged play presents a dystopian vision that may be closer than we think, as the pair's marriage unspools like analogue tape.
With both partners microchipped and feeling the strains of their respective careers, when Owen brings home a Black Box from work – an interactive meditation device which increases brain dopamine – the tech-obsessed Polly samples it with Owen more cynical and resistant. Initially seductive (its virtual euphoria is emulated by White & Givan's frenetic choreography) the machine becomes steadily more addictive. Kim Moore's sound glitches echo the fragmenting state of Polly's mind, augmented by the eerie Siri-like calm of Victoria Liddelle's voiceover, and snatches of modernist pop by Grimes and Kylie. As emotional distance opens between the couple, Neil Warmington's ergonomically streamlined set lends almost Kubrickian menace with an op art floor and cube chairs.
Once Pandora's box is open and there is no way to shut it down, as it will only reboot. Two moving performances, and intimate direction from Orla O'Loughlin add to Smith's chilling evocation of technolust as the ambient noises turn to screaming sirens and white noise and the promised technological advances devour all-too human emotions
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 5–22 April