"prologue of a dark future"
by Peter Carrington for remotegoat on 29/01/14

In the dark future, a conglomerate corporation runs London as a City-State, making themselves wealthy and suppressing artistic creativity and dissidents. Within this nightmare vision of the future there are many stories. The main thread is the poet-activist-messiah Johnny O and his love and muse, the Pop Princess turned rebel Alaya. We also learn of the journalists who refuse to bow to the Corporation media bias, the Conglomerate seeking popular support while hunting the resistance and the reluctant Mr J, an Everyman caught by accident in the struggle.

The Old Boys Club is filled with sofas, plants, bunting, stuffed animals, busts and paintings. A real fireplace serves as backdrop and a black cat wanders the space. The time between arrival and the show starting is blurred and the audience remain close to the performers throughout. It serves as an unfamiliar antechamber to the world writers Jonathan and David Herman have created. The tales spiral out in various directions conjuring a dystopian future with a simple setup and a few pieces of kit.

Performances from Noah Young and Gabby Wong are very strong; often alone speaking directly to the audience. It seemed as though they were more comfortable in the dynamic, satiric and comedic aspects rather than the soul-searching of the drama but the impact of the tales were not lost.

The tale of Orpheus and Eurydice is retold in cyberpunk melodrama and there are nods to many dystopian creations; '1984', 'Brave New World', 'Sleeper' and 'Brazil' to name a few as well as cyberpunk influences. Mixing Kafka’s Trial with a dash of Noir narration and characterisation delighted the audience and engaged them but purists might feel it is too directly interpreted.

What conveys the feel and sense of the dystopian future most however is the music by Jonathan Young and David Herman; at first intruding in the bar, then building a soundscape and atmosphere of dread.

The use of video is also integral and well done. With only two performers, the use of news bulletins and video calls projected on the screen at the end of the hall really adds to the story and experience.

The piece felt very much like a prologue to a greater creation. It felt as though there was a rich dystopian world background behind the tales. These characters and more could be made into a larger anthology because there are sadly limits to the storytelling in this production that leave many questions unanswered and open to interpretation. As a uniting thread, the tale of Johnny O and Alaya is left unresolved which is a shame. The Orpheus Project is raw and unrefined but with many enjoyable, daring aspects that show promise. It is this sort of storytelling that should be encouraged in the arts and so it acts as a prologue to these artists for the future.

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