Review: Golem

Golem is a technical marvel: a vibrant dystopian tale where live-action performers and musicians interact seamlessly with hand-made animation and claymation to create a 3D graphic novel effect.

Mar 09, 2016, updated Feb 28, 2019

The irony is that the witty and dark story is essentially an anti-technology parable, sounding a warning about the enmeshment of corporations in our daily lives.

Five performers – Esme Appleton, Lillian Henley, Rose Robinson, Shamira Turner and Will Close – cycle through a cast of characters, and several also take turns on percussion and keyboard. They’re from the ingenious London-based performance company 1927, which specialises in this hybrid of animation and live action theatre.

Animations and projections are melded intricately with the actors’ movements – which requires an extraordinarily precise choreography. This technical achievement allows the animated projections to take on a punchy 3D effect.

The story, set in a Dr Seuss-meets-Tim Burton type of world that is both old-fashioned and futuristic, is about flame-haired siblings Annie and Robert, awkward outsiders.

The pair play in a revolutionary punk rock band by night, while by day Robert works in a strange technology company called “Binary Back-Up” (which seems to utilise pencils in its work).

His trips to and from work are some of the most appealing parts of the show, with the passing parade of shops and restaurants and his amusing interaction with them. One night after work, he visits on old friend – an inventor – whose latest business is creating “Golems”.

A Golem is a creature from Jewish mythology – typically created from clay, magically brought to life and controlled by a human.

Robert purchases his Golem, who starts off as an appealing, silent helper (complete with comically pendulous appendage). Robert’s life gets easier with the help of the giant clay man, but then the creature starts to be “upgraded” remotely, and the story and the action escalates from there.

The underlying message becomes obvious (maybe too obvious), but the show is swept along by the wonderful music, song-like rhyming sections of script, and extraordinary animation, all of which fits together perfectly (there’s a particularly appealing take on the online dating world which uses all of these elements in clever fashion).

Director and writer Suzanne Andrade and animator and designer Paul Barritt deserve mention for the artistic and technical wizardry they’ve put together: it’s like a complex form of theatrical watch-making.

My only issue is that I did struggle at times to comprehend the actors, given the volume of the music and the heavy stylisation of their voices, but I imagine this could be solved with a tweaking of the audio set-up.

However, this is a minor quibble. You will not have seen a show like this before.

Golem is playing at the Dunstan Playhouse until March 13.


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