Legacy at York Theatre Royal

On Thursday 12th April 2018, the Youth Theatre’s new technological thriller Legacy opened at the York Theatre Royal. Created by Paul Birch, writer of Cross Words and Objects Of Terror, Legacy is an exciting intergenerational collaboration between The York Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre and a collection of local actors over the age of 65.

Whilst the idea of a world in which technology has ‘over-taken’ is not a new idea, what lends this play fresh perspective and relevance is the feasibility of the technology it introduces. Whilst Black Mirror toys with cranial implants and cloning consciousness, what Legacy proposes, technologically speaking, is actually fairly simple. It is the ability to doctor content online, to trace an individual’s electronic footprint and replace unsavoury material with more favourable information.  It is the equivalent of an Instagram filter for your entire online identity; an understandably seductive product in a social media focused society. However in the hands of Legacy, a trillion dollar technology firm, it is a product that quickly becomes weaponized.

Another factor that sets Legacy apart from other sci-fi focused productions is the way that it tackles the ‘age’ question. Often the conversation surrounding technology is a very divided one: those that grew up with the internet are often portrayed as selfish and disconnected, and those born before it, befuddled and scared. What Veysey’s production does well, however, is to try and avoid these stereotypes. Noreen Thorp’s impressive portrayal of Arisha Adler, a rising political star, is just as seduced by the technology proposed to her as energetic young vlogger Axis (Adam Kane). Both actors provide believable, sensitive performances as their characters scramble for control in a world that increasingly allows them none. Shirley William’s old school detective Simone also deserves a mention here, her interactions with Robert Sinkinson’s witty forensic analyst Toby providing some key moments of warmth in a production otherwise designed to be robotic and alien.

In his programme note, Paul Birch maintains that technology is the central character of the story, a fact reflected in Bethany Wells’ superb design. From the production’s opening moments, the stage is dominated by a large projection screen. Throughout the show, actors interact with pre-recorded footage displayed on drop-down monitors, small facial expressions are captured and displayed for the entire auditorium to see. Occasionally the tech glitches, the figures on the screen move out of sync with the audio, the camera freezes. It is this uneasy relationship between the physical and technical elements of the show that make it an exciting, if somewhat unsettling, viewing experience.

Legacy is an intriguing contribution to the current conversation surrounding social media, made all the more fascinating by the varied angles from which it approaches the subject.  The cast themselves provide strong, engaging performances, navigating both the humorous and sinister aspects of the production with great energy and clarity. It is a clever, well-designed production that manages to sustain the suspense for the majority of its two and a half hour running time. A worthy watch!

Hannah Eggleton

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