Surrogates review – The Spacement at The Glitch, London

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Tegan Verheul’s Surrogates, part of this year’s A Pinch of VAULT, feels scarily possible – which is exactly what Verheul was aiming for. The eight-strong cast squeezes into The Glitch’s very intimate The Spacement venue, script in hand for a staged reading of Verheul’s satirical new drama; four seated, four standing behind.

The play has the tension, scale and pace of a Netflix drama, à la Black Mirror – the type of dystopia that feels within reach in the not-too-distant future. The play focuses on the topic of the moment, Artificial Intelligence (AI), which has led to the creation of replicas of individual humans, otherwise known as ‘surrogates.’

The result is a new world and the regeneration of old worlds; Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles and Mozart have all been replicated in surrogate form and are creating new work – though one character bemoans that, even if it’s good music, it’s not ‘art.’ Even worse, though, with the potential to create enough surrogates to create a utopia where no one need ever work again, corporate greed means that it hasn’t happened. If anything, individuals are increasingly slaves to work as their slave-like surrogates stay at home to clean and look after the kids.

But the scale and pace of the piece does make it difficult to imagine how the drama could be replicated on a stage outside of a rehearsed reading, particularly as the scenes become increasingly cinematic – at the very least without Sonia Friedman-level backing. At just sixty minutes, we fly through enough material that could make up a six-part television series – which is where it feels like Verheul’s clever work belongs.

Within the cast, Kit McGuire’s performance as Jez is particularly noteworthy, Sullivan Brown’s Prime Minister is shockingly realistic, and Verheul’s impromptu performance, replacing an unavailable cast member, is also a standout.

Even in the staged reading, Surrogates feels full of drama and humour, and it takes you with it despite its increasingly surreal plot points and a conclusion that is akin to Luke Skywalker being able to take down the Death Star through a single strike at an open exhaust port. Then again, if it’s good enough for George Lucas…

There’s a challenge is awarding star ratings for any piece, never mind a staged reading, and there’s a whole lot of potential in Verheul’s script.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Surrogates played at The Spacement at The Glitch, London as part of A Pinch of VAULT 2024