Godard A to Z: Lies, Lies and Propaganda’s Zeroville

Formed in 2014 alongside their first production Phaedra, Lies, Lies and Propaganda (henceforth LLP) is an independent theatre company which seeks to create theatre that is messy, colourful, and provocative. After infusing Euripides’ play with a post-punk aesthetic (think Vivienne Westwood being let loose in Versailles), director Michael Dean and his collaborators have turned their attention to creating a self-devised piece of theatre from the ground up. Taking inspiration from Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal 1965 film Alphaville, Dean and company have created Zeroville – a slick and accomplished sci-fi noir vision of the future playing as part of the Anywhere Festival; a world where feelings and self-expression have been eradicated and everything is controlled by an omniscient computerised being known as 001.
Like Phaedra, the world of LLP’s Zeroville is mesmerisingly slick and cohesive. Staged within the Glass Pavilion in Parramatta’s justice precinct, the glass walls of the building give the production a shininess which is built upon in the pristine costumes in white and pale pastel colours, and the glowing luminous circle insignia on each character’s chest. While Hugh O’Connor’s design may seem at first like a theatrical assimilation of TRON’s light-infused aesthetic, along with the story, it quickly gives way to a more insidious and subtle idea – that everyone in Zeroville is attached to a larger omniscient interface known as A.N.N.A., everyone is connected to each other, and thoughts and intelligence are shared and controlled, programmed.
Like Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, LLP’s Zeroville features a detective (here known fittingly as Godard) trying to uncover the truth about the city, trying to find their colleague (known as Bacall) who has disappeared on an assignment. Thwarted by the Zerovillians at every turn, Godard has to remain alert to try and outwit 001, but soon finds that it is not easy, and that not everything is as it seems. Dean’s cast are all strong, with most doubling as dancers in interludes, group scenes and scene-changes. Amy Scott-Smith’s Godard is cool and surly, with just the right amount of swagger, attitude and mysteriousness to lead us into the world of Zeroville. Danielle Baynes’ 002 (or Natalia as she might have once been called) is a potent mix of friendly and welcoming, while maintaining an icy interior which remains unfathomable. Sinead Curry’s A.N.N.A. is smooth and efficient, yet also provides a tangible sense of danger in an otherwise omniscient character. (Special mention also to Jennifer White’s ‘seduction’ dance.) The rest of the ensemble move fluidly through the space, entering from outside as required, and give the piece a perpetual sense of movement and forward motion; it never feels static or slows down for a minute.
The music, almost through composed and performed by Benjamin Garrard and Jasper Garner Gore, seems reminiscent of something the love-child of The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk might have created for a science-fiction film; with vocals and dialogue interludes by Sinead Curry, the music gives the production an eerie sense of intrigue, surveillance, and disquiet, things which are all echoed throughout LLP’s production.
Even though the glass walls mean we can see actors and/or characters coalescing outside or running away as in one instance, it only serves to further the theme of surveillance, of an omniscient presence watching our every move. With Zeroville, Dean and his collaborators have taken a leap forward into the unpredictable realm of self-devised theatre, and their hard work has paid off in a production which is self-assured and slick, and I’d like to think it would make Godard himself proud. Here’s to the next adventure.

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