To Be a Machine (Version 1.0) – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
Continues until October 10th (Sold Out)
Mark O’Connell’s book “To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death” was published in 2017. As the title suggests, the book explores the concepts of transhumanism and radical life extension. It incorporates a series of interviews with people who have attempted to upgrade their body through the incorporation of technology. They see their body as a device that can be upgraded, the same as any other piece of machinery. The book forms the basis for this new work by Dead Centre Theatre company.
This is an online production which was broadcast live from the Project Arts Centre in Dublin. When you buy a ticket for the production, you are told that you need to upload some footage before you will be issued a link to view the production. The footage required is a five-second video of our face along with one of you laughing and another of you sleeping. These images are used in the performance as the theatre is filled with a number of screens, each containing the face of an audience member. The actor on stage can stare out into the audience and see our faces, but the audience is somewhere else entirely.
The work is described as version 1.0 and you would expect it to be revisited by the theatre company at some point in the future. The work is very much of our time, and explores the ‘new normal’ we find ourselves in. Theatre allows an audience to come together and see something that is live and different on each occasion. While this performance is live it is delivered to the audience through a computer screen. You have to trust the theatre-makers as with the use of green screen and other techniques, it could be filmed weeks previously. An element of faith is required. In truth, the actor on stage mentions the time and date on several occasions, like a hostage holding up today’s paper in the photograph accompanying the ransom note!
Jack Gleeson plays the part of Mark O’Connell in the production. It is a solo performance and he is our guide through the world of the machine. Gleeson is known for his role as Joffrey Baratheon in the HBO series Game of Thrones and there are a number of in-jokes on the subject. This is a familiar trope with much of Dead Centre’s work, they discuss difficult topics through humour. The audience is rarely left more than a minute without a visual gag or some trickery, at the same time as the actor on stage discusses death or what it means to be human. The piece also discusses theatre, describing it as a dying art form. In our current times, this has never felt more real but at least through work such as this, we’re allowed a glimpse at what we took for granted for so many years!