“A bit of augmentation does not make you a flipping robot”
Stacey Gregg’s Override is the only one of the plays in Watford Palace’s Ideal World season, designed to question the impact of the rise of technology on humanity, to venture into the realms of what could be loosely described as sci-fi. Mark and Violet live in a near-future world where ‘augmentation’ is the norm to eradicate human disabilities and imperfections but when she discovers she is pregnant, they opt out of this society and move to a rural backwater in order to have a completely natural birth free from interference.
But in a world where this has become commonplace, it isn’t so easy to fully disconnect and when Violet reveals that she underwent a procedure as a child, the couple are forced to confront what it really means to step off the grid. Gregg explores this with pressing and pertinent questions – what does it mean to be normal? can one be augmented and yet still possess a true sense of self? what level of intervention is acceptable, especially in cases of disability? And pleasingly she doesn’t provide easy answers either.
She pushes her thesis to the extreme, Geoffrey Breton’s keen jogger Mark is adamant about the need to abandon everything in order to maintain their perfectly conceived new world, his nervy intensity both moving and disturbing in the totality of his vision. And Matti Houghton’s irrepressible stage presence as Violet makes a convincing case for a more ambiguous case, suggesting that there might be some good in technological intervention. Though how far is too far? Colin Grenfell’s excellent lighting design says more than words ever could in the play’s dénouement, Selina Cartmell’s direction excellently playing off our hearts and against our heads.