Kicking off the 2019 season is “The Double” presented by Bow & Dagger and The Blue Room Theatre. The premise of a struggling actress, Victoria, who sells her likeness to a tech giant is interesting and extremely topical. Writer Clare Testoni (making her directing debut) was inspired to write the play “after spending time in Germany in shadow puppetry training”. Testoni says “as an actress my sense of self has always been rocky and as a woman, I am always made to feel aware that there is a disconnect between the way I am seen and the way I see myself”. Testoni approached this project with a need to explore “identity, vanity, and morality … using the technology and aesthetic of social media”. Indeed, the use of digital technology to change the facial features and gender of the actors involved is an innovative, imaginative and purposeful device. 

Performers Phoebe Sullivan, Amanda Watson and Michelle Aitken are extremely adept at switching characters, with the aid of technology, though I did feel that it was somewhat overused in this production. The lone ‘live’ character who only communicates through technology is a sad reality, and one that is all too common, however, this is what impedes the dramatic action, dynamism and character development of the play.

“The Double” is billed as a “cyber-gothic nightmare … a horror story of Faustian proportions” however, the character of Victoria does not go through significant moments of horror, tension or struggle, except during the last ten minutes of the play. Although the production is tech heavy, it is also, surprisingly, very text heavy, but the dramaturgical choices rely too much on realism.The beats that depict the changing circumstances of Victoria are evident, however, the ways in which they are expressed arerather monotonous. Allowing different aspects of Victoria’s personality to emerge as her situation changes would have given opportunities to show different physical energies and distinct psychological shifts.

Perhaps in the hands, or mentorship, of an experienced director, and/or working with a dramaturg, Testoni’s script could have reached a more vigorous expression of the potential horrors of digital technology. Having said that, the image manipulation that occurs throughout is an exciting and, at the same time, horrifying prospect and raises interesting questions about individuality. I hope Testoni develops the play further as there is great potential here for a truly terrifying and remarkable piece of theatre.

Rhiannon Petersen’s lighting design and sound design by Joe Luiwere satisfactory and suitably sidelined to emphasise the excellent real-time manipulation of the images during the production by stage manager Rachael Woodward.

“The Double” is showing at The Blue Room Theatre: 7pm until 11 May 2019. Bookings at www.blueroom.org.au or call 9227 7005.

Photos: David Cox Media

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