Review by Sam Waite
Warning: Good Day contains repeated discussions of death and suicide, as will this review.
What would happen if death, or even injury, was no longer an inescapable part of being alive? If the human race was given the chance to live forever, how long would any of us really want to? In Good Day, making its premiere as part of this year’s Vault Festival, a young woman is faced with these questions, and finds that what was once a natural conclusion is much more difficult to reach in a utopian, painless world.
Zara’s body has only reached age 22, but she’s been alive for centuries. Good Day begins in the autumn of 2555, when Zara decides that she is going to die. Chips implanted by Mor2Life, a tech giant who has reached a startling level of influence and control, keep human beings from harm, and she needs them to deactivate hers. Before they allow this, she must spend a year attending weekly sessions with Alex, a robot specifically created to provide therapy and support to Zara. If Alex confirms in a year’s time that her patient is of sound enough mind, her decision will be allowed and supported.
Co-writers Daniel Bainbridge and Cam Scriven don’t delve too deeply into the background of Mor2Life, who seem to have become an omnipresent force in all areas of life. This is for the best, as the sci-fi setup could become confusing and distracting if given too much attention – for the purposes of this story, we have all the information we need. The duo’s pacing and willingness to explore the comedic undertones of what are, on the surface, very serious therapy sessions allow Zara to feel fully realised, and her desire to end her own life gradually becomes startlingly understandable.
Playing this character, 530+ years old and having simply lost interest in life, is no easy feat. Thankfully Annie Davidson is up to the task, and is consistently believable. She fluctuates with remarkable ease between abrasive annoyance with the hoops Zara is asked to jump through and real likability when she is tasked with opening up to other characters. Joe, a love interest who claims to support her decision, is played by Sam Newton in a funny, well-balanced performance – Joe’s growing feelings for Zara are at odds with his fear of actually losing her, and Newton keeps both plates spinning while having some of the sillier comedic moments. The chemistry between the two sells the relationship, even though we know she had shorter-term plans than he seems to.
Olivia Barrowclough, as Alex, may have the piece’s strongest performance. Programmed with responses designed to emulate real emotion, Alex finds it difficult at times to accept that she isn’t a living, feeling thing – Barrowclough’s work is exceptional here, with her robotic, Siri-inspired tone giving way slightly to a more emotive, yearning vocal quality. When it is announced that she is one of a series of identical androids designed for therapeutic sessions, it’s increasingly easy to understand Zara’s growing attachment and rejection of this idea.
Director Marlie Haco opts for collaborative methods in creating this futuristic vision of our world – movement pieces scored by Ákos Lustyik’s dynamic electronic work play out between scenes and serve as ways to move around the few set pieces quickly. Almost appearing as interpretive dance performances, these sequences allow for the actors to express through movement the emotions building between their characters in the many weeks and months not fully explored. Haco’s production also relies heavily on the video design by Dan Light as a major factor in presenting from the earliest moments that technology has overtaken this vision of the future.
Light’s video screens, paired effectively with the halogen tube-lights sporadically utilised by designer Alex Forey to present more tech-heavy settings, continually display the dialogue of the three characters. Looking like a Siri/Cortana/Alexa conversation you might find on your own phone, serving as a helpful accessibility tool while also reinforcing the idea that technology has aided the inhabitants of this particular future to the point of being a constant, overbearing presence. Elsewhere, a clock counts out the therapy sessions in real time on an adjacent screen, keeping the times and dates of the scenes grounded and easy to follow.
Thoughtful and provocative, Good Day makes a successful debut, and with any luck, this will propel it into further development and more fully-realised productions. With well-crafted characters and plenty of room to further explore the relationships that grow and fracture between them, this play would be a welcome addition to other intimate venues, and deserves to find an audience who are willing to examine, if never truly answer, the questions it poses.
Good Day is now playing at the Network Theatre until March 12th as part of the Vault Festival.
Tickets can be found at https://vaultfestival.com/performances/good-day
Photos by Jake Bush