Control | New Theatre

Image by Bob Seary

This review comes from Night Writes guest reviewer Anja Bless

Making its Sydney debut, Control by emerging playwright, Keziah Warner, is a sci-fi show ready to entertain and enthral. Flowing through three different but interconnected stories set sometime in our (not-too distant?) future, Control asks what happens if we don’t pull on the brake of technological development.

Directed by Patrick Howard and performed by an ensemble cast (Romney Hamilton, Giani Leon, Riley McNamara, Emily Suine, Kaitlyn Thor, Luke Vinsentin, Caitlin Williams, and Olivia Xegas), each act of Control is distinct in both its style, performance genre, and theme.

The first act follows a quartet of washed-up celebrities as they hurtle through space on the way to a new Mars colony, all the while filmed for a Big Brother-style reality show. The four quickly come to question what they’re doing by trying to rediscover fame while lightyears away from Earth, and start to wonder – is anyone really watching? The second act takes us back to Earth, where cloud data storage is so advanced it can even take care of our memories, with the enticing prospect of editing out the bits of our childhood we’d rather forget. The final act follows the training of an android to become a kindergarten teacher on Mars (AKA New Earth), revisiting the moral dilemma of where humanity stops and droids begin.

The strength of performances varied in the production, some dropped accents and under-refined physical work in the first act distracted slightly from what was otherwise a very entertaining opening. It would have been enjoyable to see some of the comedic moments that were brought out in this act, particularly by Emily Suine and Luke Vinsentin, to have also been carried through in the progressively more serious second and third acts. Kaitlyn Thor, one of the strongest performers of the ensemble, featured in all three acts. This gave Thor ample opportunity to show her acting range and ability, although for the audience it was somewhat confusing as to how each of her characters were related as the only returning performer in all three stories. The final act, a two-hander between Thor and Caitlin Williams, was the strongest in terms of performance. Williams’s physicality as the droid was excellent, and she developed the progression of the robot’s humanity beautifully, adding emotionality and depth to the character layer by layer.

The set design by David Marshall-Martin was superb, helping transform the scenes from the cavernous feeling of a space-ship to the intimate training room of the final act. Although further use could have been made by the performers of the translucent central pillar and the depth and dynamics offered by the set. Lighting by Capri Harris also helped to distinguish each of the acts and adjust the tone accordingly. Though perhaps the use of distinct colour schemes within each act, rather than just in their transitions, would have been helpful to signpost for the audience that a new story was underway. The sound design by director Patrick Howard also provided additional depth and dynamism to the different acts, however further rehearsal was needed on a number of sound cues from the actors (particularly in the second act) to give the show further polish.

The content explored by Control is not necessarily ground-breaking science fiction. However it is nonetheless a thought-provoking show, and an entertaining one at that. There is something particularly spine-tingling in seeing these Black Mirror-esque scenes played out in live theatre which Sydney audiences are sure to enjoy.

Control is running at New Theatre from July 5th – 30th

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