A Machine They're Secretly Building: 'The kind of theatre that seeps into the sub-conscious' (4 stars)

A Machine They're Secretly Building: 'The kind of theatre that seeps into the sub-conscious'

Chilling, intelligent and witty theatre from Proto-type looks at the effects of data-gathering on our free speech 

Uncomfortable laughs and unpalatable home truths permeate throughout A Machine They're Secretly Building. Gillian Lees and Rachel Baynton present a history of surveillance, either filming themselves in Pussy Riot styled pink balaclavas, or bouncing staccato lines off each other, sitting behind a desk, their voices emulating the clicking of typewriters.

How information is disseminated, from the days of the Cold War to our 24-hour CCTV culture is framed around 'safety'. However, Andrew Westerside's text suggests a climate of fear and social control, perpetuated by the media, a means of keeping people complacent and docile.

Eventually, the cameras, which are turned on the two performers, are pointed towards the audience. What makes the production so compelling is its even-handedness.

By presenting, in a serene smiling tone, bald data on everything from whistle-blower Edward Snowden's PRISM case to the Patriot Act (using force against terrorism) which was implemented post- the 9/11 attacks on The World Trade Centre, Proto-type leave the audience to make their own judgement on how much influence is scare-mongering, playing into a collective paranoia, and how much is necessary for survival.

Two superb performances, intelligent and playful, are complemented by exacting video footage by Adam York Gregory. The kind of theatre that seeps into the sub-conscious. Pass the tin foil hats.

A Machine They're Secretly Building

Proto-type theatre company explores the pernicious threat of 24-hour surveillance in a performance that combines original text and classified intelligence documents with film from digital artist Adam York Gregory and sound design by Paul J Rogers.

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