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Override, Watford Palace Theatre – Review

Stacey Gregg
Directed by Selina Cartmell

Pros: The acting is fantastic and the relationship between the two main characters is very believable.

Cons: It could do with being even another 15 minutes longer just to pad out some of the details. It seems a bit rushed and like we were missing something from the story

Our Verdict: An interesting take on the subject of trans-humanism. Could have done with some padding out, but this is compensated by some excellent performances.

Courtesy of Watford Palace Theatre. Image: Manuel Harlan

Set in some sort of future utopia – but not too far into the future – Override is a brand new play which makes for an interesting and thought provoking evening. It explores the idea of trans-humanism; the integration of technology and biology and the accompanying ethical questions which surround it. It asks questions about how far we go can with “tech” and combining it with biology to “improve” ourselves before we ultimately become cyborgs.

The story has a fascinating premise – a couple, Mark and Violet, live in a world of advancing technology which can get rid of imperfections and disabilities, but they are trying to have a baby ”naturally.” Mark (Geoffrey Breton) hates tech. The idea of altering yourself for what we may deem as medical reasons is something he abhors. It is not just the more extreme alterations he dislikes, such as amputating an arm to make it stronger or more attractive or replacing a slightly dodgy organ with something that will live forever, but also the thought of laser eye surgery or reconstructive treatment following injury – things we take for granted.

Unbeknown to him, he has fallen in love with someone who was “made.” Violet (played by Matti Houghton) makes a discovery after the death of her mother: she find a license which suggests she may have some “tech” in her. How much, she doesn’t know. When Mark overrides the technology inside her and stops it from working, her world, literally, starts to fall apart.

This is a really interesting production if not a little odd in places. The narrative is intermingled with some interpretive dance which seems a tad unnecessary and superfluous. The acting, however is superb; Houghton and Breton are a very believable couple. In addition, the sound and lighting are cleverly used to show that we are sometime in the future without it being too much like an episode of The Jetsons.

I would have liked this production to have been slightly longer and more in depth; I think the show would have benefited from some more information on the world the characters are living in, and the laws and practises behind it. These additional details would have made the script slightly easier to understand in the earlier stages of the play. It feels a little like Brave New World/1984 but it is never quite clear exactly what kind of world Mark and Violet are living in. However, despite this gripe, this piece of new writing is worth seeing if you are interested in the ever-growing use of technology, or if you sometimes wonder whether we have already gone too far. It is certainly thought provoking and poignant, with Stacey Gregg’s wonderfully written moments of comedy juxtaposed with distress and emotion, all brilliantly portrayed by the cast.

To sum up, Override is a fascinating discussion on trans-humanism. Even though this is a bit of an unusual topic, the play is thought provoking and has some brilliant performances. It would have been helpful and interesting to get a little more detail about the world which is described, but overall this is certainly a production worth catching.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Override runs at the Watford Palace Theatre until  the 19th of October.
Box office: 01923 225671 or book online at www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk/

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