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Switch review at Tricycle Theatre, London – ‘a talented young company’

Jessica Rhodes in Switch at Tricycle Theatre, London. Photo: Marc Douet
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An interactive dystopian sci-fi story based on a decades-old thought experiment, Switch depicts a crumbling society where the only escape is into a supposedly blissful artificial reality. While the audience ponders the ethics of remaining behind or abandoning the rest of the world, we are led from the Tricycle Theatre’s more familiar spaces into narrow backstage passages and imaginatively repurposed offices. One room has become a meditation zone carpeted in grass. Another serves as a hideout for pro-reality activists.

Tom Bowtell’s measured direction allows time for subtle world building, while ensuring no single section drags on too long. The young cast take time to repeatedly engage with each audience member, displaying real focus and impressive improvisational skills throughout these exchanges. Jessica Rhodes gets the most compelling role as a test subject ‘liberated’ from the Experience Machine, and desperate to return to it.

The production has its share of gimmicky elements, and the plot is packed with sci-fi stereotypes – a sinister corporation, desperate rebels, even a shady android who provides exposition. However, the moral quandary at the play’s centre is far from clear cut. The machine’s designers have surprisingly altruistic goals, while their detractors feel less revolutionary and more reactionary – if not violently radical – as the show progresses.

Devised and performed by the Tricycle’s Young Company, Switch will be amongst the last shows performed before the theatre closes for renovation later this year. This ambitious, forward-looking, talent-nurturing piece seems like a fitting way to temporarily sign off.

Verdict
Ambitious site-specific sci-fi performed by a talented young company
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