With endless gigabytes of information always at our fingertips, a media industry obsessed with unobtainable perfection and constant debates between natural and scientific approaches, the globe is experiencing a technological revolution like no other before. Investigating these rapid cultural changes, the Watford Palace Theatre’s ‘Ideal World Season’ promises to be both thought provoking and entertaining in its approach to this prevalent cultural metamorphosis. Talking to artistic director Brigid Larmour, she explained that she was attracted to the raw human impact that is felt everyday from the digital age, and was struck by the lack of productions that focus on these common experiences. Whereas a plethora of high budget Hollywood films have looked at ‘what could happen’, there seemed a lack of works that were engaging with ‘what is happening’, and the everyday human consequence of this cultural shift. Utilising the interactive and stimulating characteristics of theatre, Larmour hopes to engage audience members as participants and not just observers in her season, and has brought together a team of three established British playwrights to question both positive and negative consequences of today’s digitised landscape.
One of the most exciting aspects of this season, Larmour explains, is the vast difference between each production’s approaches. Each of the three plays was chosen because of its particular and detailed focus that allows it to resonate with larger themes, and enables the plays to stand as their own theatrical experiences, while also uniting the larger overarching concepts. Writer Gary Owen and director Brigid Larmour will look into the world of online dating in Perfect Match, a comedy about a new dating agency with the potential to scan and compare everyone in the world. In contrast to this, E.V. Crowe’s new play titled Virgin, directed by Joe Murphy, interrogates the vast cultural gap between two women from different generations and their ideas of friendship and privacy. Using experience and research undertaken in a rural community in the UK, Crowe’s play focuses on the installation of broadband Internet in a small country town and the wider ramifications of ‘being connected’. Meanwhile dark comedy Override written by Stacey Gregg and directed by Selina Cartmell ponders debates between human augmentation and natural births, and questions what it means to be human. Diversified yet collective, the ‘Ideal World Season’ looks to be a fascinating examination of questions less asked.
Along side the three plays, Watford Palace Theatre will host a number of events that will further consider the notions explored in the three productions. Working in collaboration with the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, a number of guest speakers will present talks and debates throughout the season, including CRASSH director Simon Goldhill, BBC journalist Bill Thompson, digital publisher Ann Mroz and robot engineer Michael Walters. Q&A’s with the directors and writers will also run after some of the performances. On top of this jam packed schedule, late night screenings of iconic science fiction films will be shown, such as The Fifth Element and Gattaca, and the digital artwork Talk to Me stands as another way that audience members can further engage with the season.
Multifaceted and thorough, the ‘Ideal World Season’ promises to be a stimulating experience that will create foyers full of discussion. To find out more about the season, please visit Watford Palace Theatre’s website.