A Machine they're Secretly Building

The audience were completely absorbed by Proto-Type Theater’s exposition of global mass-surveillance in A Machine They’re Secretly Building, the title aptly born from whistleblower Edward Snowden. Rachel Baynton and Gillian Lees launch us into a theatrical seminar educating the audience on the history of the modern invasion of privacy. A projector screen reveals fast moving images and video of post-war Western society along with facts and figures as Baynton and Lees sit behind the table in the style of news reporters. Interjected with short scenes and fearful monologues which are projected from an onstage live-feed camera, we receive a rich blend of information, performance, and activism.

This is an exciting way of creating awareness of this terrifying truth of today

Taking us through the series of events from 1945, the birth of Microsoft, the World-Wide Web and Google; leading to where we are today always being told ‘don’t worry this is to keep you safe’. A Machine They’re Secretly Building theatrically exposes the corruption within the system, pointing out that the extreme surveillance has been implemented only by encouraging fear. Fear of the ‘other’, and monopolising on fear as an industry. How ‘they’ have been collecting our data in Utah data storage warehouses, each containing 1 Yottabyte (1 Trillion Terabytes) of our data, we have handed over while online.

This is an exciting way of creating awareness of this terrifying truth of today, as it places all this information in front of audiences in a tangible way, without making you feel guilty. With the Investigatory Powers Act that was implemented at the end of 2016, this is all information we really should be aware of by now, though many choose to forget or ignore that it’s happening. It’s ‘to keep us safe’ after all. The moments where we see Baynton and Lees on the live-feed, are really the only human feeling moments of this play, and I think a few more moments like this could balance out the cold and detached atmosphere of the show. 

Reviews by Isabella Javor

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The Blurb

From what might be a news desk, an office, an underground bunker or a theatre – two people speak up, speak out, and blow the whistle on the insidious machine of surveillance. A Machine... charts a course from the Top Secret secrets of WWI intelligence (via the moon, 1972’s Chess World Championships, a disco in Oklahoma and the cafeteria at CERN), through to 9/11, the erosion of privacy, Edward Snowden, and the terror of a future that might already be upon us. ‘A sharing of disbelief, an articulate wail of anger’ (BritishTheatreGuide.info).