This collection of musings on what it means to be human in an increasingly technologically assisted age is certainly impressive on the audio-visual front.
A collaboration between Manchester’s Home, the science-skewed Unlimited Theatre and the Royal Exchange-affiliated music, theatre and dance collective RashDash, it is strikingly lit and arrestingly staged in a large, cubic set flanked by movable plastic blinds, onto which subtitles and Josh Pharo and Sarah Readman’s projections play out.
But its most arresting element sees musician Becky Wilkie, slathered in blue make-up and looking like a cross between Ziggy Stardust and the X Mens’ Mystique, accompanying the action with her persuasively spiky, St Vincent-esque art rock tunes and sometimes interacting with a never-less-than committed cast.
However, as the production progresses, its origins as a museum installation – commissioned by London’s Science Museum in 2015 – become more and more evident. Short, sharp vignettes showing couples wrestling with the ethical dilemmas of becoming physically and mentally fused with machines give way to longer, more reflective 2001: A Space Odyssey-like sections before finally devolving into one long patience-testing and rudimentarily choreographed impressionistic dance sequence.
But before that, some of the more emotionally focused sections really resonate. Alison Halstead impresses as a bereaved woman signing up to have her emotional pain erased and a scene featuring Deshaye Gayle as a murderer who chooses execution over having his urge to kill removed throws up some interesting moral questions. But these ideas remain undeveloped or have been better served, and more successfully mined for their dramatic potential, in multiple episodes of Black Mirror.