The Salzburg Festival world première production of Golem has little to do with Gustav Meyrink’s famous 1914 novel. As such, the title of the English language play is a little misleading. But it is great craftsmanship from the ensemble 1927 (director: Suzanne Andrade), and 90 minutes of splendid fun, superb entertainment, wholesomeness, plus a little thoughtfulness. 1927 consists of a small crew of actors, as talented and quirky as they are endearing, no props worth speaking of, smart writing, a little live music (Lillian Henley) from the sides, all brilliantly combined with Paul Barritt’s film, drawings and claymation projected onto the back of the stage…and it works like clockwork.
So does Golem. Golem is nice. Golem is helpful. Golem is entertaining. Golem is on the go. Golem will explain for you the problems of faux-individualism, cultural homogeneity, commercialism, conformism, the evil of Google and Facebook and Amazon and McCormick Spices and McDonalds and Motel One. We are shown a world without room for losers, or stupidity, presumably a world of self-inflicted perfection without smoking or smelly feet…in short, without meaningful freedom. Golem, a friendly-looking clay-figure, is Phil Sylocate’s latest invention in a string of hapless inventions. But Golem becomes a hit and a bigger company takes over, all with good intentions of mass production and a Golem for everyone. But are they really good intentions? At first Golem helps our protagonist Robert Robertson. Robert is an Emo Phillips-type who works at the binary backup company which is something one can zero in on (01001000 0110000100100001). Now Robert enjoys more free time which he can spend on socialising or buying a new pair of fancy yellow boots or getting a little more ambitious and applying for the new management position at the binary backup company. But it turns insidious soon enough. Golem begins to become suggestive and eventually pushy.
Golem even makes Robert break up with his girlfriend (“She is a dowdy 35-year old woman who wants to trick you into having babies. You deserve better. But you are the boss!”) This is about the point where we get into a ludicrous misunderstanding of the artistic team’s stance on what capitalism is or where the responsibilities for a life of choice lie. There is no nefarious larger commercial power that aims at total cooptation not through Golem or his updates (Golem.2 – smaller, faster, more efficient; Golem.3 – a convenient brain-implant). There are only our own desires, more – and less – reflected and the liberty to indulge in them. And with liberty comes duty. A duty toward oneself, not against a greater scheme.
Well, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of who has sniffed a bit of reality can apply that switch in his or her mind and enjoy the show as it goes on, with all its mime-walking, the drums and piano music, anarchic political punk band (Amy and the Underdogs) of Robert’s sister Amy (a Kassandra-type) which only ever performs in the basement of their mother’s house. The band mocks Stephen Fry and is out to ruin other people’s Christmas, and is generally as awkward and as enjoyable as the show itself. And, ditto, much less heavy-going than the subject might suggest.