Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Is This The Machine They Are Secretly Building, or is it just a Proto-Type?


Big Brother is watching? Ever since 1949, when George Orwell published his dystopian novel, 1984, conspiracists and libertarians alike have continued to warn us of a society that unwittingly allows itself to be scrutinised and monitored in minute detail. A database of recorded conversations, messages and images held for our own benefit. To protect us. For our own good.

Tonight, sixty eight years later, and with the horrors of Manchester and London Bridge fresh in our minds, Lincoln-based performance company Proto-Type brought their acclaimed show A Machine They Are Secretly Building to Norwich Arts Centre.

Within the space of just over one hour, and with the aid of a series of projected images and graphics, performers Rachel Baynton and Gillian Lees take us on a journey that begins in Whitehall in 1943 and propels us into the near-future, as our government and their security services' role in protecting us from perceived and potential enemies is put under the microscope.

As technology develops exponentially, then so does the storage capacity of the databases required to contain the bank of intercepted images, telephone conversations and online footprints of our daily lives. All unwittingly gifted away by our acceptance of the T&C's of our internet providers and mobile phone companies.

There is so much information presented within this show that you will almost certainly want to buy a copy of the script. Fortunately this is available at the end of the performance. But even if you try to wing it, and head off home with the image of Rachel and Gillian's balaclava-clad challenging resonating within your consciousness there is still much to stimulate thought. 

Why, for example, do we appear so keen to purchase dashcams for our cars, and download apps onto our mobile phones that allow us to check up on everything from intruders on the drive to the nursing care employed to look after our ageing relatives, and to monitor the childcare to whom we willingly delegate our parental responsibilities?

If you had the opportunity to view footage of a deceased loved one, or remember what you looked like fifty years ago, would you not log on to a retrospective version of Google Street View?

This is a brilliantly presented and thought-provoking show that I would urge you all to see. Agree, disagree, or just sit in the middle ground and allow this data be collected and catalogued, you will not leave without your mind buzzing with food for thought. 

And maybe a little bit of concern.

Proto-type Theater will be presenting There's A Machine They're Secretly Building  at the Edinburgh Fringe from 15th - 27th August.