Virtual reality offers endless possibilities including the Hyperdream, an opportunity for paying customers to relive pivotal moments in their lives. Whether they have unfinished business, need a chance to heal, or just want to experience the thrill again, Hyperdream can make that happen. It’s a powerful technology. Perhaps, too powerful?
Four technicians maintain the Hyperdream while the customers are inside their virtual realities and they’ve begun to notice oddities in the system; unexplained glitches and some frightening indications of intelligence coming from the Hyperdream itself. Silas (Matt Abell-King) rallies the other technicians to overthrow the Hyperdream.
The script, devised by the cast and creative leads Adriane Daff and Mikala Westall, followed the typical trajectory of the cyber/techno genre from amazement to fear as the technology becomes sentient and too powerful for human control. It was predictable at the same time as it was unsatisfactory despite the additional side-plot of filming a space tragedy turned real tragedy, which added yet another futuristic element but made no substantial claims for its inclusion.
With the cast clad in grey sweat suits and large nerd-chic glasses, the aesthetics nodded towards the stereotypical computer geek or gamer images of people holed-up in the dark, plugging away at their computers. And, as a production interested in technology, Hyperdream made ample use of it with LED light rods, live camera feeds, and green screen projection. These many different visuals added literal layers to the performances and the technology was impressively handled by the cast. However, the extensive re-setting required for each and every scene ate into the production time and was distracting and disruptive. Theatre is already an alternate reality with aesthetic and artistic possibilities that differentiate it from other mediums, so to see it forced behind virtual reality and a mediating screen was disappointing and ultimately lacklustre.
The strongest aspect of the production was the performances. Each cast member added an interesting humanity to their role whether that was Nat Jobe‘s character’s flawed love of milk or the petty relationship drama between Silas and Ez (Angela Mahlatjie). Daff added a lot of humour to the narrative as the up-tight technician but also as the ill-used lead actor in the space tragedy film. But Abell-King demonstrated an exceptional versatility in the range of characters he portrayed from the cringe auteur director to an uncomfortable bullying victim. Even in the brief glimpses the audience was offered of the dozens of characters in Hyperdream, the cast commendably humanised and rounded out each gesture or hint at a larger life.
When tech giants routine show the world how technology can be used to cause harm, Hyperdream imagines a way to use technology for good. But, considering how quickly the tides turned, perhaps progress is striding towards doom regardless.
Hyperdream is running at the Old Fitz Theatre from May 15th – June 5th.
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