I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
Life but not as we know it
Future Dilemmas could be the alternative title of the new production at HOME's Theatre 2.
This episodic mixture of spoken word, live original music and movement is set in an indeterminate future ("Email, what were we thinking?"). It is a 'new country ' where our brains can be uploaded to computers and our faculties can be upgraded.
At its most effective, the script by Clare Duffy and Abbi Greenland challenges us to consider which choices we would make if we had the options.
Becky Wilkie, Yusra Warsama, and Alison. Photo by Jonathan Keenan.
In one scene Yusra Warsama (back at HOME following her performance in On Corporation Street), is an employee urged by Kate Maravan to allow the company she works for to implant her with an efficiency device.
It sounds like an offer it would be easy to refuse until you reflect on what you would do if your livelihood was under threat.
In another scene Deshaye Gayle is a convicted murderer offered freedom if he consents to new treatments. It's a theme explored by Manchester-born writer Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange (1962 ) but its closer to reality, in 2018.
Lara Steward, Deshaye Gayle, and Alison Halstead. Photo by Jonathan Keenan.
The most moving section is a monologue in which Alison Halstead plays a grieving widow wrestling both with her grief and the possibility of it being anaesthetised by treatment.
How much of ourselves we would sacrifice to make our daily lives easier is a question which runs from start to finish of the action.
For me, Future Bodies central focus was on the brain and how it could be manipulated to alter our moods and personalities. Perhaps Future Brains did not sound as sellable a title for this production, directed by Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland.
Jon Spooner, Artistic Director of Unlimited Theatre, asks in his programme note: "Why do we think of bodies and brains as separate entities?"
Becky Wilkie dressed in a blue bodysuit, with her face painted the same colour reminded me of 1980s band Zigue Zigue Sputnik. Her live soundtrack both maintained the tempo between scenes and her original songs served as howls of protest against the action on the stage.
I Don't have the Money for Your Tech is a punk snarl of outrage at inequality. As author William Gibson once said "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed."
Becky Wilkie, Deshaye Gayle, Yusra Warsama, Kate Maravan, and Lara. Photo by Jonathan Keenan.
Throughout the 90 minutes of the production, subtitles are projected behind the actors. One cast member, Lara Steward, is profoundly Deaf and communicates both through speech and sign language. This injects humour as we get to see what the characters she portrays really think of their friends and foes.
It was hard not to check if what the actors were saying matched the subtitles. Very occasionally words were changed or omitted - but not to any detriment to the impact of what was being said.
The last section of Future Bodies involves the whole cast interacting through dance, with no dialogue at all. I found that this section tested my non-upgraded powers of concentration. It is always hard for episodic plays to find a neat way of reaching their end.
Overall, Future Bodies - which is part of Manchester Science Festival - makes dynamic entertainment out of new technology and age-old questions about what makes us human and individual people.
Future Bodies is an Unlimited Theatre and RashDash world premiere. It is at HOME until Saturday 13 October 2018, and then tours to Northern Stage, Newcastle (Tuesday 16 - Thursday 18 October), and the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield (Friday 19 October).