Mini-review – Golem – 1927 at Young Vic Theater


Although it opened in December, I still very much wanted to go see 1927’s new show, Golem, especially given the usually affordable pricing structure of the Young Vic (my ticket was £19.50) and the fact their previous show had been one of my favorites of 2011. Four years … that’s a long time for a show to stay with you. Think about it. So, despite the warnings from Stewart Pringle (I didn’t read the review but I saw the stars, or lack thereof), I went to see Golem, hoping a difference in personal tastes would lead to an enjoyable night. And hey, it was cheap and promised to be only 90 minutes long, so surely it couldn’t be such a bad evening (despite my epic jet lag).

Golem was in no ways a retelling of the golem tales of yore, other than that it has a golem in it – no Prague setting, no spell casting, no Jewish themes, no parallels with Frankenstein. But when you get an animated human creature who does your servant, you nearly automatically get the opportunity for requests to go a bit haywire (i.e “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), and narratively the possibility of the creature somehow acquiring free will is a powerful path to go down. For this story, however, the creature doesn’t seem to develop its own sense of will so much as have it taken over by someone else. It’s all done as a sort of morality tale about consumerism, twined around a deliberately quirky tale of a family of two nerdy kids (they have an anarchist punk band together that never actually performs due to their anxiety issues) and their grandmother, whose lives are invaded and eventually taken over by this strange, evolving, semi-subordinate creature.

As ever, this show was done with live people and animated back and foregrounds – a truly original style that almost comes off as a sort of living claymation, this time with more of a St Pepper’s/Monty Pythno feel rather than the Soviet Expressionism of their last show. But I’m beginning to think that the lack of possibility of spontaneity reduces the input of the human elements too much for my tastes – they are practically performing a live movie, not a play, with all of the dialogue recorded (unless I’m seriously mistaken – the music did seem to be performed live but I don’t think all of it was). The effects created by this format is really beautiful, but at some point it has to move beyond trickery and visuals and actually become an engaging story; but somehow for Golem this did not happen and I found myself, 40 minutes in, feeling uncomfortable in my chair and wondering just how this show could redeem itself. The point that was being deliverered – the social satire – wasn’t really subtle, and, well, I was bored. And for a ninety minute show to become boring … well, that’s quite an indictment.

As I walked out, I heard the excited witterings of all of the other people who’d had an enjoyable evening (obviously not including the woman sat in front of me who’d limboed backwards out of her back of stall seat and made a run for it 10 minutes before the end). Maybe, like Punchdrunk, this is the kind of thing where initial novelty can really provide a tidal wave of enthusiasm, but, in the end, content wins out over form, and this show just didn’t cut the mustard. Ah well, I’ll still go back at least another two times to see what comes next.

(This review is for a performance that took place on January 13th, 2015. It continues until January 31st. There is a really nice preview of this show on the Telegraph‘s website which I’m going to read because I do still consider myself a 1927 fan even if I didn’t care for this show.)

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4 Responses to “Mini-review – Golem – 1927 at Young Vic Theater”

  1. tubz Says:

    I didn’t know anything about the original story of Golem, I had thoughts of the Lord of the Ring character – sorry. But I loved the way the backdrop was a rolling projector, and how ads can get inside your head. For me it was quite an original appearance, but a little flat.

  2. Civilian Theatre Says:

    Oh dear, our first crossover show of 2015 and we have a fairly major divergence of opinion. It had to happen sometime! Well, here’s *raises a celebratory glass* to another fine year of reviewing.

  3. Tobias Oliver Says:

    I thought you might be interested in catching a unique production of TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral being staged – with a professional cast of five and a non-professional cast of 16 drawn from the British and Irish Bar – at Temple Church on Fri 30 – Sun 1 Feb. Yes, I know it’s short notice – sorry.

    The professional cast stars Philip Franks as Thomas a Becket, Christopher Ravenscroft, Andrew Hall, Christopher Hollis and Patrick Toomey.

    The Chorus of the Women of Canterbury is formed by some of the finest women advocates in the country ranging from high-flying young barristers to well-established QCs.

    There will be only three performances of ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ at the Temple Church on Friday 30th & Saturday 31st January at 7pm and Sunday 1 February at 4 pm.

  4. Nick Holland (@nick730) Says:

    I probably would have been irritated by this even if I hadn’t seen any of their previous work, but I don’t think it helped, either: After The Animals and Children I wondered how they’d develop their style next, and it turns out they didn’t – they just did the same thing, but for a longer running time.

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