It was with some excitement that I anticipated seeing Legacy: a new play being performed at York Theatre Royal, using an intriguing mixture of the Youth Theatre members and amateur actors.
Legacy by York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre
York Theatre Royal
Thu Apr 12-Sat Apr 14
It is a first in York community projects and the older members of the cast are all over 65.
The play, written specifically for York Theatre by Paul Birch, attempts to explore issues of technology and a futuristic sense of identity. The use of a divergent age range brings an challenging factor to the piece.
Fake news and Facebook’s current debacle concerning the use of personal data add contemporary texture.
It is tempting to go along with the play’s ideas in the mood of ‘why not, this could be next?’ So that the creation of ‘perfect people’ by Legacy, the ultimate technological company, provides a thrilling twist to the story.
Ruthless search for the truth
The plot centres on the discovery of the body of a young man in the river. The investigating detective, Simone Macdonald, played by Shirley Williams, is pitched into an unreal nightmare world when it is discovered that the corpse has no actual identity and therefore does not exist.
Her ruthless search for the truth drives the action.
Tangled up in the shadowy world is Arisha Adler, a rising politician, played by Noreen Thorp.
She is offered the chance to erase her past and create a new personality but makes a Faustian pact with Legacy, in payment. Her aide is admirably played by Paul Richards who also gets drawn deeper into evil.
Other characters include Axis, an online blogger whose acting has acute focus and he is able to produce some brilliant movement sequences. Meg Watson as the survivor in the drowning scene demonstrates similar intensity.
Split screens are used to show Legacy’s leader, Ian Giles, in a disorientating series of scenes. Noel Stabler, Rory Mulvihill, Bernard Lyne, Stan Gaskell and Joan Sinanan provide the sinister team who blindly follow the legacy ethos.
The members of the youth theatre use movement and ensemble work superbly, being a frantic disco crowd or a menacing gang.
They move across the stage mobiles in hand, in complicated synchronicity. Fiona Baistow achieves strong effects and disciplined movement, while Bethan Clark creates fight sequences which have real impact.
Humour and realism
But all is not doom and gloom. The detective team of Robert Sinkinson as a forensic pathologist and Maggie Smales as a tough superior officer work to ground the action.
Together with Bill Laverick, as a policeman on duty at every crime scene, they add humour and realism to the plot. Peter Warner as Ben, is Simone’s fragile, love interest; a device which I felt added little to the tension of the story, except to say policeman have no social life.
Director Kate Veysey is confronted by a difficult task. We accept the basic premise through a willing suspension of disbelief and she turns it into an enjoyable and ultimately, satisfying experience.
We care about those who are killed and are forced to think about what could happen in such a ‘brave new world’.
Put your phones away
The lighting design is created by Simon Bedwell and it fully uses the digital skills of Ed Sunman. Bethany Well’s set is stark and effective, lending itself particularly well to the sections dealing with technological data on multiple screens.
Veysey speaks of a journey exploring the digital legacy theme with all her cast and pays tribute to the author when she expresses a hope that more productions of the show will follow.
At times, the play states the obvious but cloning exists, identity fraud is rife and as for DNA? Could it be manufactured to produce independent life?
Theatre should reflect contemporary society and Legacy certainly achieves this. Just put away those mobile phones occasionally and keep an eye on social media!