Comment Editor Ed Southgate reviews MTB's new, original musical: No Mind at the Pegg Theatre.
A few weeks ago I saw a post shared online that drew attention to how our generation have grown up alongside the growth of the technological era. We remember a time when technology did not dominate our lives, but we developed into adulthood at the same time as technology progressed; while our grandparents feel distanced from technology and our children won't know a world without it, we have known both. We therefore understand how technology can benefit our lives, but also anticipate the dangers of how it can dominate and destroy our minds.
MTB's original production No Mind sets out to explore this growing control that technology has over us, asking, in their own words, 'how do you know which thoughts are your own?'. It follows Nova (Rachel Xuereb), whose job is to implant new-born babies with a chip which supposedly makes the population 'more efficient'. As the show develops, the sinister reality of these chips become clearer to Nova, presenting her with a moral dilemma surrounding her role.
This potential felt somewhat unrealised, due to distracting sloppy scene changes and under-rehearsed scenes
This show had the potential to be gripping and thought-provoking, and the opportunity to challenge our increasing dependence on technology. This potential felt somewhat unrealised, due to distracting sloppy scene changes and under-rehearsed scenes. Perhaps one or two blackouts would have been acceptable, but when every scene change is drawn out with a long blackout it destroys any energy, or flow, and really destroys the claim that this is a 'fast-paced' show. There were so many blackouts disrupting the show's progression that I wasn't sure if I, like the characters in the play, had a malfunctioning chip that prevented me from spectating it cohesively.
Alongside this, it is a shame that the live music is so loud that we sometimes lose potentially vital pieces of script and song, and the sudden and harsh lighting changes serve little atmospheric purpose. Music and lighting is vital for any production to create the appropriate atmosphere and mood, and especially so for this play's theme; however, the lack of subtlety unfortunately does not achieve this.
There are also a few moments of seemingly lazy direction and script-writing that cannot go ignored. More could have been done to amplify the remnants of an older world; moments like playing Scrabble were dropped in and not properly explored in a script that could have highlighted the significance of craving pass-times without technology. In another scene, the direction is bizarrely inconsistent with a door- Nova bangs on a door, yet walks smoothly in after having apparently broken it down (without any of the expected noise or struggle), and minutes later the police inexplicably 'open' the door that has been broken down.
"the cast evidently consists of very talented performers, all of whom excelled in their roles"
Despite this, the cast evidently consists of very talented performers, all of whom excelled in their roles. Particular credit should be given to Alex Stephenson and Megan Good. From his first entrance, Stephenson brings an intriguing presence and energy to the stage which captures the audience's interest. Playing a manipulative individual he manages to strike the perfect balance between the sour undertones of his intentions and light. Good also successfully creates this balance, which is a crucial part of the show's identity; presenting her character as bubbly and humorous serves to heighten the developing tension as the dark reality of her situation becomes clear. It is this development that makes the penultimate number shared between her and Rachel all the more touching.
Indeed, throughout there are some superb musical numbers which really do save the show from the sloppy moments. Three numbers strike me as particularly impressive and fun: 'Freddie', 'Police Force', and 'The End' provide the energy that we crave in earlier scenes. With red lighting and flirtatious choreography from the chorus, 'Freddie' is both funny and sexy, aptly introducing his character as the manipulative and charming lawyer, and my applause goes to all of the performers in this number. 'Police Force' likewise has strong character, a catchy tune and engaging performers, with special credit to Mingma Hughes, who boldly enters the stage and confidently sings her lines with in a way that is somehow equally funny yet intimidating. This is of course much to the benefit of the wider production, which seeks to show the increasing control and force dominating our lives in an unnervingly comic way.
No Mind undoubtedly has the potential to be the fast-paced, Black Mirror-esque show that it aspires to be. With a little more rehearsal and refining the practical details, it can certainly be a success.
Featured image: Instagram / @NoMind2018