Dumbshow last came to The Lowry in 2012 with a show called Clockheart Boy. It was a heart-breakingly tender family-show about an old Professor who made mechanical people to help him look after his daughter. At its heart, Clockheart Boy was a celebration of living life to the full. We return this autumn with something quite different… a state-of-the-nation piece of theatre which brings to life explosive ideas about free market capitalism, shock and the current dismantling of the welfare state.
Electric Dreams tells the story of Rose – a woman who couldn’t remember the first 18 years of her life. But what caused her memory loss?
After falling in love with Sebastian, a torture survivor from Chile, she begins to investigate the mystery of her past.
Using video archive, live music and projection, the story is narrated by a group of librarians who discover that Rose’s story bears lessons for their own lives.
At the Edinburgh Fringe it was described in The Stage as a cross between Stephen Poliakoff’s Shooting the Past and Dan Brown, but Electric Dreams is actually inspired by the ideas in Naomi Klein’s seminal book, The Shock Doctrine. It recounts real historical events and the most incredible thing about the show, is that most of it is true.
This may seem like a far cry from the fantastical world of Clockheart Boy – it’s definitely not a show to bring a 7 year old to! Electric Dreams is set in today’s Britain, and tells a story that spans decades and travels across the globe; it explores real people’s lives and issues that face all of us today. So how can a company that last came to you with Clockheart Boy suddenly tackle global politics?
First of all, because we felt we had to. Dumbshow makes theatre about a wide range of subjects and we never limit ourselves to one genre or form. After reading Klein’s book, several members of the company felt that she articulated ideas that were both challenging and persuasive so there was little doubt in our minds: what Klein was saying needed further exploration.
But to make a piece of theatre you need more than explosive ideas. One of the reasons The Shock Doctrine is so provocative is that at the heart of Klein’s journalism is a story; the true story of a woman who has led an extraordinary life. We don’t name her in the show because this isn’t a documentary, it is a piece of theatre (as well as being a mystery – and so you’ll have to see the show to find out what happened to her), but our character Rose is a testament to the real experiences of a woman who is still alive today. It is only through telling this personal story with a strong emotional core, that we were able to take a ideas that have grand, historical relevance and make them resonate today.
So what about today? Well, this contemporary relevance comes in the form of our narrators – the librarians. As the show unfolds, we discover more about their situation; about what led to the closure of their library, and how Rose’s quest might not be so different from theirs. Again, this isn’t make-believe, libraries are being closed all over the country – in January this year, Trafford council announced the closure of 3 libraries in an attempt to cut costs. In many ways Electric Dreams isn’t just about what happened to Rose, but about the wider power of stories and the importance of places like libraries to allow us to choose which narratives we tell about ourselves.
So at the heart of Electric Dreams is the idea of storytelling, which brings me back to Clockheart Boy. Whether we are spinning a yarn for younger children or basing our plays on real people, Dumbshow is a company of storytellers, and Electric Dreams very much fits into this mold. As the public sphere gets gradually eroded in the face of financial crises and austerity, it might be that we have to fight for our right to access stories and ideas. Electric Dreams is a call to arms, but above all else, a bloody great story.
Written by Michael Davis, Dumbshow Director.
Tickets for Electric Dreams can be bought online or via box office 0843 208 6000.
Dates: Sat 17 Oct 2015
Tickets: £12 (£10 concessions) No booking fees for Studio shows.