There’s a slight problem with Laura Poliakoff’s Clockwork, premiered at this year’s HighTide Festival, and it’s one which bedevils any fiction set in the future. We can only create that half-century away era as a distortion of what we know, feel or believe about the present.
Of course, it’s very possible that care-homes and health-service provision in general will deteriorate from today’s level, that technology will play an ever-increasing role in everyday life, that assisted suicide will become the norm, that books, magazines and newspapers will crease to exist in a printed format – but we don’t really know. So it’s up to the writer to make us believe that all this has happened.
Mikey (Kern Falconer) is a tracksuited irascible old man in a wheelchair. Carl (Russell Floyd) is his old friend and fellow care-home inmate, apparently an altogether jollier old soul. It appears the Mikey has had enough of his decaying life, even if both he and Carl get a rise out of plaguing their nurse, who they’ve nicknamed Troll Face (Rachel Atkins). But is this really so?
Then there's a young man doing a stint of community service (Shomarri Diaz) , who isn’t quite sure whose side he’s on, not even his own. And there’s Mikey’s daughter Sarah (Matilda Ziegler), another question-mark personality for both the older men.
Director Steven Atkinson with designers Richard Kent (set) and Matt Prentice (lighting) give us a grey room backed by ranks of filing cabinets. These make a sort of catacomb – are they for stripped-down possessions, or for the storage of the deceased? The shafts of light which traverse this space take us into another world entirely, not a corporeal one.