Monday, July 19, 2010

Steampunk Interactive Performance

Promotional image from True Logic of the Future with video projection on actor Cathy PetoczLast night I attended preview of the play "True Logic of the Future" by Boho at the Belconnen Arts Centre, in Canberra. This combined live performance, video and audience participation for an entertaining and thought provoking evening. The pay opens 21 August, during the Ultimo Science festival at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

The play is set in a post-apocalyptic near future, where climate change has overwhelmed democratic government and computer logic is used to make hard decisions as to who will live and die. The set looks like a Victorian era drawing room, apparently in reference to William Stanley Jevons, Victorian era economist and logician. The three actors, Cathy Petocz, Jack Lloyd and David Finnigan are dressed in Victorian era costume and they (and we the audience) are invited to work out what is going on. But this seems really to be an excuse for using a steam-punk aesthetic. The characters, while in Victorian era consume, use devices such as a 1880 style WiFi plate camera and a computer console in the style of pipe organ, which is inspired by Jevons' 'Logic Piano' paleo-computer.

The play seems prescient, with its themes of desperate political expedients to address climate change, given the the Australian prime minister was deposed suddenly a few weeks ago for failing to address climate change.

Performances were flawless, despite the difficulty of working in an interactive environment which tended to distract from the actors. The use of video, including real time images from a WiFi camera disguised as an old plate camera was clever. The use of video reminded me of Peter Greenaway's "Prospero's Books". The play also has echos of Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia. That play also features issues of technology, mathematics and a fluid use of time. Perhaps the producer should consider a video game version of the work.

The location of the play made it more poignant, being a few hundred metres from some of the government institutions mentioned. Many of the audience seemed to be from government and were able to identify with the play (I overheard a discussion advocating the centralisation of Government IT in the foyer before the performance which might have been part of the script).

But the themes of authoritarian versus humanistic government in the face of a failure to address climate change, would seem to be likely to be just as relevant in NSW when the play opens during the Ultimo Science festival at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

ps: In the past I have found that with such plays, life starts to imitate art. In 1994 I attended Arcadia in Sydney. A few days later I was visiting Oxford and caught up in the architecture and academic environment described in the play.

In 1996 I attended Bertolt Brecht.'s "The Life of Galileo" at the Sydney Opera House. The set had a Apple Mac laptop on Galileo's desk, drawing parallels between censorship of Galileo's work and modern Internet censorship. Around the same time I appeared before Senate inquires into Internet censorship, where the IT profession was essentially assumed to be guilty until proven innocent.

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