“Wow Everything is Amazing” at Battersea Arts Centre – 11/04/19


I must admit I wasn’t sure what to expect from Sounds Like Chaos‘ “Wow Everything is Amazing”. The promotional materials had asked a lot of questions about our relationship with technology but hadn’t answered many in terms of what this piece of theatre actually was. Was it a play? Spoken word? Performance art? Contemporary dance?

Well, a little of all of the above. Like Rebecca Bunch, it’s hard to summarize. But in one way, I can pigeonhole the genre of this piece – it was a dystopian drama and it shared many features with the great dystopian dramas we all know and love.

It opens in a church, 50 years into the future, but not a church as we know it. The unseen deity some of us currently worship had been replaced with something more tangible, yet still undefinable – the Godhead. Human in appearance, worshipped as a god and formed of mankind’s data, willingly shared. The worshippers hang on every word the Godhead says, clicking their fingers in appreciation, which subtly places it in a world where hand-clapping has become obsolete. It’s also a world where sex and race have no value judgements attached – everyone is described as either an XX or an XY and by the varying levels of melanin in their skin. Age, however, seems to still be a key discriminator, with the entire congregation described as being in their early teens and it’s hinted early on that a great misfortune befell the older generation.

It’s in this setting that the Godhead preaches his sermons. Anyone who’s watched the “Church Hunters” parody will understand that the modern church often skirts perilously close to being “a TED talk with a Bible verse” and so it is here – the Godhead spouts almost-profound messages about “the network” while the worshippers click away furiously. He’s flanked by a shiny-robed choir, who both chant and sing to reinforce the messages, and the Alpha Geeks, who effectively hold all the power in this universe.

It seems like everyone is blissfully happy – “Everything is Amazing” makes its appearance late on in a song not dissimilar in tone to the Lego Movie’s “Everything is Awesome” (which I totally class as a dystopian movie FYI). But there’s the hint about the misfortunes and tragedies of the past, the ones left “outside the Network” and eventually our 1984Winston/Emmett character starts to break free and question it all.

I won’t tell you more of the plot than that for fear of spoilers. But it’s a very slick and effective show – the small space of the Staff Recreation Room works well as the chapel, with pew-like seats for the audience making you feel like you’re part of the action. The screens at the back project images of obsolete technologies as well as a giant Godhead preaching to his flock and the lighting makes it feel suitably high-tech and futuristic. The actor who played the Godhead is disconcertingly convincing as the cyber-deity, gliding in on a hoverboard and speaking with zen-like calm even when there appears to be a…glitch… …by contrast, the 1984Winston/Emmett character, as I’ll call him, is all high emotion, bursting with the kind of curiousity that always gets you into trouble in these kinds of situtations. The ensemble work very well together,showing subtle shades of doubt as things start to unravel, and there are some high energy gospel-style dance numbers which showcase the talents of both the dancers and the choir. A special mention to our narrator character for those backflips. Amazing.

It’s only around an hour long so suitable for kids though probably older ones would get more from it in terms of understanding all the themes. I didn’t take either of mine as I went in the evening and they were both shattered and emotional form holiday club but I think both would have enjoyed it and Eva certainly would have been wowed by the sparkly dress and room-length train of The Sponsor. The show only has one more night to run at BAC – you can blame various members of my family including myself for this review being so late – but transfers to the Albany next week for three nights ( Tue 16 – Thu 18 April, 7.30pm). I would recommend trying to catch it before it moves on, even if it might make you feel a bit uneasy next time you reach for your smartphone…

Disclaimer: I received a free ticket in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own. For tickets and more information, click here. 

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