Perhaps the sweetest dystopian adventure of this year’s Fringe, Wrong Tree Theatre Company and Ultraviolet Productions bring Foundations to Underbelly Cowgate (Belly Button) following a sell-out performance at New Wimbledon Studio.
The entire cast and production team are formed of Durham University alumni, including co-directors Aimee Dickinson and AV Bodrenkova. The show is only performing until 21st August, leaving just a few days to catch this artistic and heart-warming production.
Bored of her uninspiring factory job, sixteen-year-old MJ follows her suspicions about a curious noise to uncover a hidden workplace which is populated by robots. Her appreciation of functionless fun contaminates work-driven robot Pins, and a touching bond develops between the pair.
The plot is mainly told through the dialogue of actors and puppets, but mechanical movement sections form the circuitry of the show. A tale of halting the corporate machine, Foundations challenges the idealisation of uniformity and celebrates joy in a world focused on progress. Adorable as the story is, the show also provides stunning, thought-provoking commentary on complex ideas concerning capitalist ideologies, workplace exploitation, political passivism, human exceptionalism, robot ethics, and perhaps even transhumanism.
Charlie Culley plays courageous and outgoing MJ with utmost likeability, and Hannah Lydon as Yann Norton conveys the complexity of their character with sensitivity and skill. Olivia Swain as innocent robot Pins nails the deadpan humour of their character, and Rory Gee convincingly portrays supervisor Bolts as a victim of the system they help to maintain.
As the robots of the show become human, the humans become robotic, and while this produces antagonistic moments, the motivations of the characters are worryingly understandable.
The lovable puppets are strangely emotive but fitting with their stoic demeanour. AV Bodrenkova’s puppet making and lighting design works well with Josh Powell’s soundtrack to create an industrial and futuristic atmosphere, and the whole show is impressively cohesive.
In one hour, Foundations questions whether society is in the process of defining or forgetting what it means to be human, and it would be a real shame to miss out on this inspired yet profoundly original journey.