Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Despite my love for anything futuristic, I do hate Google maps. I always end up in a ball of anxiety wondering if I’m going the right way. After finally finding the Network Theatre down a very misleading road, my Mum and I enter the theatre to watch The Future is Mental presented by Network Theatre, and directed by Rosie De Vekey. This was my Mum’s first experience of the Vaults Festival, so I was excited to be sharing this with her. As a big fan of Black Mirror and Killing Eve, which were referenced in the description of the show, I was ready to be confronted with some politically challenging ideas and concepts of the future. However, these are some very successful shows and these comparisons set the standards very high.
The Future is Mental runs at an hour and consists of six sketches. Each one has a concept that could theoretically exist in our society. They, mostly, don’t seem too far-fetched and set up an interesting foundation for a world lead by technology. There is an underlying dystopian theme with all of the outcomes and characters, setting a successful unsettling tone throughout. Matthew Gill opens the show addressing us, convincingly setting up a world, one in which we as the audience are participants in choosing a new leader. He explains this trial will be over a five-year period (the one hour show), and he earns a few laughs here and there from his upbeat and optimistic character's punch lines. My Mum is always very anxious of immersive theatre pieces. She hates them. So I reassure her that this would not include any participation. Which it doesn't. But perhaps it should do. A voting system is introduced between the sketches, where the audience is offered a variety of questions to ‘answer’ on a projection screen in order to choose the suitable future leader among us. But this was never actually manifested and seemed underdeveloped. Perhaps the relentless comedic form slightly blunted the capacity to make significant points.
Each scenario is centred on women in diverse situations so, naturally, I loved that many of the lead roles were written for female actors, and they each hold their own on stage proudly. However, I can’t help but feel this is flattened by the nature of each woman’s situation. Emotionally abused by a husband, fame-thirsty of her Sister and unmotivated in her career, these women seem to have to turn to technological alternatives in order to fix their collapsing lives. The politics of these characters could be refined to support a more feminist agenda.
As a company, there is a clear enthusiasm and a suitable level of acting. Lara Lom and Kia Dickinson provided an amusing mockery of the Kardashian sisters with their commitment to their accent and characterisation. Lio Lylark is also commendable for her performance of Alexa, as she holds an air of threat during her monologue that is humourous yet uncomfortable. Mood Lighting and Decluttering had really interesting concepts but felt like first drafts. Pushing the outcome of the characters in these scenarios, and developing the politics of what is at stake, is key here in order for the audience to invest in the ideas. If the future is mental, let us leave feeling mind-boggled at the notions being proposed. The Future is Mental sets out foundations of what could be a really interesting show, but, for now, I feel the future is a bit underwhelming.
The Future is Mental is on at the Network Theatre as part of The Vault Festival until February 23rd. Tickets available here at https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/the-future-is-mental/
Review by Izzie Tyner