Imagine your radius of experience is limited to four walls and you don’t mind at all, you even find it comfortable. Imagine you have your own assistant who takes care of everything for you. Call her Isadora and talk to her like your best friend. Imagine that everything is so conveniently arranged for you that you can even receive friends at the virtual lunch table. Imagine you are completely independent of the outside world and happy as can be – only you never go outside because you are afraid of it.
This is exactly the setting Caroline Peters offered with the Ledwald group in the play “Die Maschine steht nicht still”. The production is a paraphrase of a text by E.M. Forster’s “The machine stops” from 1909 and was created as a reaction to the pandemic in which most of us became much more dependent on computers and the internet.
Amazing visuals by Eric Dunlap, a permanent live camera guide by Andrea Gabriel (also responsible for recorded videos) and a perfectly coordinated light and sound design by Lars Deutrich add an electronic layer to the performance that is not only absolutely zeitgeisty, but also makes sense here. The text, adapted by Caroline Peters, tells of a woman who receives a call from her father one day. Like her, he lives 2.5 km away from her in a setting like the one described above, wants to tell her something and asks her to take to the road and come to him not just virtually but in the flesh.
This initial situation puts his daughter in a quandary, as she is supposed to leave her protective environment against all orders and go into a terrain of which she has no idea what awaits her there. Mindcontrol has progressed so far that any experiment outside of one’s own four walls no longer seems desirable and the maxim applies: standstill is progress and what I don’t try can’t go wrong. Towards the end, however, the daughter actually succeeds in freeing herself from her monitoring companion Isadora, who immediately invites comparison with Alexa, Siri or other currently active electronic helpers. In addition to the description of everyday life, which Peters renders with high acting skill, whether it is a cooking recipe she wants Isadora to implement, taking voice calls or watching video lectures, she is fascinating in multiple roles in the scene at the table with her invited friends. They have all been recorded by her beforehand and, at the push of a button, gather around the laid table in virtual space to – as is familiar from real life – show off, look frightened, be amazed or be admired, just like the respective characters.
Lars Deutrich on the electronic sound machine and Andrea Gabriel in the role of the mute Isadora, who captures everything with her live camera and also saves it, are permanently present on stage. Both Peters and Gabriel wear poison-green costumes with a spider pattern – a symbol of imprisonment in the web, which is nevertheless perceived as chic and essential. (Costumes Flora Miranda) It is not only the illusionistic setting that impresses, but also the text, which has a whole series of dazzling sentence pearls such as: “Since the pandemic, we know that viruses and technology grow exponentially”, “Knowledge is a kind of fiction”, “Deep Intelligence is also just another kind of cheating” or “To time its loop, to the loop its freedom” – a rewrite of the Hevesi slogan emblazoned over the Vienna Secession. These are just a few, few statements that one would like to read at home because of the further abundance of philosophical ideas, bon mots and visions of the future.
The clever, open ending leaves a taste of relief and fear at the same time and in no way glosses over the digital future we already find ourselves in.
This article is automatically translated with deepl.com