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Young Vic, London

1927’s Golem may be one of the most brilliant theatre productions of this century. It is an accomplishment of epic proportions as they effortlessly mix arts, genres and media arriving at a thoroughly coherent and engaging original story written by Susanne Andrade, who also directs it.

At the same time it is a challenge to give an account of this production because it is such a complex artistic venture with multi-layered storytelling conducted not only through acting but also through live music, singing, dancing, animation, film projections and voiceover.

In a nutshell Golem is a cautionary yet hilarious tale about a young man, his sister, their grandmother and their friends, and their slow descent into uncurbed consumerism thanks to an invention of golems, domestic and workplace helpers controlled by a scary corporation. This strange story inspired by a novel by Gustav Mayrink hides a serious message of the production: the exploitation of labour force, materialism, dependence on technology and the consequences of progress.

Golem is a piece of avant-garde politically-engaged theatre without any demagogy. It shows brilliantly through the use of grotesque and absurd the dangers of post-industrial world controlled by corporations. There are many surprises in store for the audience and I will not reveal them. I have no doubt that the show’s cleverness, ingenuity and humour will make you want to see more of 1927’s productions next time they are in London.

  • Written and directed by Suzanne Andrade
  • Film, animation and design by Paul Barritt
  • Cast includes: Esme Appleton, Will Close, Lillian Henley, Rose Robinson, Shamira Turner
  • Young Vic, London
  • Until 31st January 2015
  • Time: 19.30
  • Review by Aleksandra Sakowska
  • 14 December 2014

One Response

  1. Mel Cooper

    I always want to enjoy a Christmas show and there were certainly some elements of this play that I did find interesting and memorable – especially the technicalities of the staging and the integrated use of brilliant video designs and animation by Paul Arritt. The music was apt and very well played; and there is no question that the ensemble work of the cast was brilliant in its timing and the perfection of matching the video elements. Visually I kept watching the action on the stage with much interest and admiration.

    That said, I felt that the play itself had very little merit. For a start it had almost nothing to do with the actual legend of the Golem or the novel by Gustav Meyrink, a classic that came from a mixture of the Kabala and the ghettos of Eastern Europe and that speculated on the nature of God, application of magical powers and a kind of Frankenstein-like overreaching of mankind to challenge God Himself in the ability to create life.

    The Golem at the Young Vic is really just a technological robot that keeps getting upgraded until it takes over the human mind and will and turns men and women into robots. Aldous Huxley dealt with all this more memorably in Brave New World. The Capek Brothers did something more interesting and elusive in R.U.R. This show is basically R.U.R. meets Brave New World. It has nothing original to say; and it certainly misses the point of the Golem tale to which it supposedly pays homage.

    The visual aspect of the production is extremely striking and, at times, even beautiful; but after about ten minutes it starts to seem repetitive to me, though endlessly clever. And the tale itself as told here updates for a modern audience has all the depth of a jejune undergraduate review.

    Though it is brightly coloured, sprightly in movement and full of interesting theatrical trickery and mime, in the end it did not add up to much. At times it put me in mind of Marcel Marceau. This approach to the Golem story makes it a kind of living comic book on stage and it is far removed and divorced from the original mythic tale of Rabbi Loew’s Golem, a mysterious automaton conjured from the mud in Prague during the Renaissance to help the Jewish people.

    I give it all its stars for stagecraft and the seamless energy of the extremely committed and well-drilled cast of actor-musicians and not at all for its content. Marshall McLuhan used to insist that the medium is the message. It seemed to me that this medium had no message, except perhaps one that is pretty obvious and unoriginal. Nor was the video artistry, for all its skill, all that original.

    If you want to get some idea about what the old story of the Golem is all about, by the way, there is not only Meyrink’s novel but a very interesting more recent and much more thought-provoking novel of great invention and brilliant by Michael Chabon called The Amazong Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.


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