Image Source: The Company Theatre
Author George Orwell conceived the totalitarianism of surveillance through his concept of the BIG BROTHER in his novel 1984. The epic representation of the sureveilling mind saw representation on TV, films, Apple-computers-launch decades back. Was he pointing at technology and computers way back in his times ? Maybe yes!
In his latest production WHIRLPOOL, John Britton , founder of Duende School of Ensemble Physical Theatre shows-questions the interference of surveillance in our personal and professional lives through the internet and social media. Perhaps it would not be "apt" or "precise " to say he shows or questions. He just creates an environment of distrust, lack of accountability and characters leading lives like puppets. [ Puppets actually can see the string attached. But not there in the totalitarian world of today of mobiles, apps , Technology, Internet, Google and Facebook.] In the name of marketing , companies gather huge data and influence behavior through Ads.
Where is the locus of this power ? Where is this prying mind located ? In one country, one nationality, one identity? We don't know and there may not be any.
THIS GIVES RISE TO THE EVER POWERFUL BIG BROTHER.
The director of WHIRLPOOL has cleverly built an environment and left it open to the audience; is the the lights operators, sound operators who are meddling with the actors ? or is it director ?
As you enter the auditorium, it's not even clear if the play has started. But, it has!
The voice over of the director John Britton takes over. And the artists are doing normal day-to-day movements. There is no dance too!
But, there is a strong sense of breaking of the movement of a normal being through surveillance and control. The movement appears perpetrated and artificial, mechanical and controlled. Instincts are dubbed by surveillance and administrative control. There is one voice which is there ; that of the invisible Big Brother. The director has even avoided the use of "instinctual chaos" that most directors resort to to show some kind of abnormality. A kind of mechanical environment is built by John without being robotic! The actors also speak in many languages: English, Hindi, Marathi.
The ensemble of actors, lights, sound and voice-over did succeed in building the BIG BROTHER ensemble.
The internet and mobile control in our lives is bringing an unprecedented totalitarianism; where forces are influencing our decisions. This could be another opening of totalitarianism.
George Orwell imagined the future way back in his novel 1984; this environment that upcoming societies , nations and cultures would go through. It speaks relevance too.
Some thought leaders of today have also spoken against too much use of technology and Artifical Intelligence like Elon Musk and Chris Anderson; if we care to listen. The words of George Orwell still echo in our times!
THE IDEA OF SURVEILLANCE. Let's wake up to the fact that we are under surveillance! Privacy is just a concept to make us comfortable. The play points to the silent anarchy of our times, the silent anarchy of the internet, the silent anarchy of marketing!
1984 came out after the Cold war and the ravaged Europe of wars. The book is a classic work!
Director John Britton has Manjari Kaul on the ensemble. Abhishek Krishnan, Avantika Bahl Goyal and Srishti Shrivastava are on the ensemble too. It was a powerful performance from all of the ensemble!
PERHAPS WE ARE IN AN ERA WHICH GEORGE ORWELL IMAGINED IN 1984:
The Ministry of Truth -- Minitrue, in Newspeak -- was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
Conceived and Directed by John Britton
Created by The Ensemble
The Company Theatre production
Cast: Avantika Bahl Goyal, Srishti Shrivastava, Abhishek Krishnan, Manjari Kaul
Direction: John Britton
Production Manager: Anahita Praveen Dawar
Lights Designer: Gurleen Judge
Sound Designer: Nikhil Nagaraj
Video artist: Ritwik Kaikini