OK.. so that title is a bit unfair. Agent Solitude, on at Zürich’s Theatre der Künst is actually pretty cool and more like a sophisticated sound installation than a traditional theatre piece.
Basically you enter a small dark room.. from the roof hang about 30 crude metal robots and on the ground a naked man lies face down. Everything is cold, stark – like a metal abbatoir. Strange echoey sounds flick around the room. Spooky. And then the robots start to come alive. Each has a roughly attached speaker in place of his head and from this they emmit disturbed, unsettling murmers. Some of the voices are mechanical, some more human. They speak of loss, fear, eternity.
Individually the robots begin to descend from the ceiling, hydraulics moving their limbs in a tragic, clumsy fashion until suddenly they are at the audiences level. At this point the back wall opens up and the robots spread across the new space, allowing the audience to walk around amongst them.
The experience of moving between the individual robots, hearing their cries and following their jerky hydraulic actions is mesmerising. At one point the sound cuts out and the robots move in synchronicity – the pump, whoosh and clang of the hydraulics beating out a beautiful simple rhythm.
The piece ends with the robots suddenly ascending again.. as they do the man, still lying face down on the ground lets out a lone, long strangled cry. The robots become still and quiet and slowly the audience leaves the room.
So yeah – maybe it was a little overdramatic, but I still enjoyed this piece. It is quite amazing how personal an interaction can feel between a human and a collection of metal, crudely pieced together, when that metal has a voice that speaks and limbs that move. I don’t want to go into the man/machine interplay, it is obvious and done to death.. but somehow this work was still quite affecting.