Well, the set cost millions: the eight-storey atrium of the Cottons Centre, with its backdrop of the Thames and the City beyond, is a hell of a sponsorship coup and a stunning location for this supposed presentation/press conference by the SET corporation in the year 2013. Before the show, the "directors" mill around, engaging in small-talk with us "shareholders" and businesslike schmoozing. Then a new, unique, thinking and talking computer is unveiled. But this isn't to be a dollop of they're-taking-over techno-paranoia – indeed, man and machine engage throughout in (sometimes shaky, vague or trite) teamwork.
However, dramatically there's little originality: a competition for succession to the chair of the company – King Lear meets The Krypton Factor – blended with a bit of mystery (who sold the secret plans to the opposition?), constitute a play that's not big enough for its setting. The acting begins as an accurate pastiche of corporate-presentation woodenness and stilted jocularity, but is short on fluid naturalism when passions flare, and the cavernous acoustics are as much a curse at some moments as they are a blessing at others. A magnificent vision, but insufficiently complemented by the actual theatrics.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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