Review by Regan Baker
Space, and the future. Two of the scariest concepts known to man. Is there a bright future ahead of humanity, filled with prosperity, love and innovation? Or will it be riddled with war and famine? And what exactly lies beyond the boundaries of our own gravity in the great yonder? Other life forms? Inhabitable other planets? Science Fiction is both the thing that dreams are made of, but also nightmares. In her latest work, Control, UK-born Melbournite Keziah Warner explores these concepts to break down the fiction of the unknown and reflect inward on the idea of ‘self’ and the connection we hold with those around us, whether that be in 2032, or 2080.
Control is a story in three parts, told at three different points in the future and connected by the children of the characters from the previous time. It didn’t feel like a single 90-minute story however, more so three separate glimpses into what the future may hold. This isn’t a bad thing per say, as it was a unique and interesting style of writing, and perhaps it was merely my own expectations of storytelling that left me feeling a little incomplete at the end of the play. Each individual act was well structured and elicited emotion through conflict or adversity, so as individual stories were brilliant in their entirety, it was just that linking element that was missing. That one final “holy shit” moment to tie them all together.
The adaption of the script to the stage by Timothy Wynn was immersive and well executed, especially considering their tight budget for set design. Along with lighting and vision designer Nathaniel Knight, the world they created was experienced through projected videos and images on a large window in the back of the set. The rest was left entirely to the marvellous cast and their ability to draw us into their worlds and their motivations. The action and staging choices Wynn made were evident in the final execution of the play and how we, as an audience, were drawn into the story.
In Act I, a reality TV inspired voyage set aboard a spaceship headed for Mars, the cast, along with the script, combined perfectly to create the most engaging and exciting storyline of the show. Matt Domingo shone as the heroic Jake, bringing together multiple elements of physical theatre and vocal training to produce a believable and likeable character. Triona Calimbayan-Giles presented an equally dominant performance as Laura, who brilliantly juggled the juxtaposing sides to her character in wanting to present a strong front for the cameras, but also fearing their ship was malfunctioning.
Egan Sun-Bin was more of a background character in the first act, but hit his stride as the humanoid Alex in the second phase of the play. I’m not sure if saying his characterisation of a robot was superb is a compliment or an insult, but his facial expressions, body control and movement around the stage was pretty much exactly what one would expect from a humanoid robot. Nykita O’Keeffe and Calimbayan-Giles worked marvellously together, working at the Museum of Childhood where all of one’s memories, skeletons, and triumphs are stored for archival purposes. Similarly, Domingo delivered another powerful performance as Xavier, exuding the trauma of losing his brother and wanting to have the memories erased.
The final act was a conversation between O’keeffe and Calimbayan-Giles, an AI-programmer, and a humanoid teacher to be, respectively. Both delivered wonderful performances and the discourse between them felt natural and unscripted. The scene itself, however, wasn’t as precise as the other two acts and would have benefited from a little more script work and editing to bring the total length down a bit and make the scene more poignant and to the point.
Don’t get me wrong, it was still a well written scene and the emotion it conveyed as the AI became more and more self-aware was very well executed. In fact, each individual story was well written and well executed, there was just something about putting them all together in one loosely connected show that didn’t quite sit right with me. Perhaps it was the pacing – kick-starting the show with high energy and action sequences and ending in a thirty-minute discourse, or perhaps it was the lack of an overarching storyline – I’m not too sure. Overall though, Control was still a highly enjoyable evening that engaged the eyes as well as the brain. The future is terrifying, yet exciting, and we were given a unique glimpse into one interpretation of what may lie ahead.