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Minority Report | Lyric Hammersmith

There's a commonly held belief that sci-fi is incredibly hard to sell on stage; it's a genre that demands spectacle, believable immersion and a presentation of the future sold purely through technology available in the present. Pair sci-fi with the also highly demanding task of screen-to-stage adaptations, and it becomes easy to see how a play production of Minority Report, the 2002 cyberpunk thriller movie, also an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's story could be a worrisome affair. With Moulin Rouge currently impressing West End audiences and the remarkable touring production of Life of Pi bringing jaw dropping artistry across the country, there's precedent that bringing cinema to life in theatrical form can work to magnificent effect, yet sadly for Minority Report, this isn't totally the case.

Truthfully, there is an attempt at making Minority Report a spectacle: the sets by Jon Bausor are easily the biggest I've seen within the Lyric Hammersmith, and dynamic ceiling pieces paired with sliding glass doors come together to create offices, homes and underground laboratories. That being said, after a while the aesthetic becomes exhaustive, as poor quality projections fail to break up the monotony of metal frames and structures that define the show's appearance - the show demands its audience to believe that Julia (the protagonist) is on the run, yet with such a stagnant set design, one struggles to see beyond what appears to be a very claustrophobic and enclosed space.

Perhaps the play's flaw is that it approaches sci-fi too literally; in an attempt to depict London in 2040 on a limited budget, the production is unable to seamlessly create a believable world on stage, and instead its elements amount to a world that feels cheap, flimsy, and clearly not the lived in, futuristic world it wishes to be. Paired with awkward scene transitions, largely static set pieces within scenes, and an overall absence of life, it becomes hard to buy that this is a reality in which we ought to care for the citizens terrorised by its authoritarian state.

This lack of life is only compounded by the small cast which, while talented, do not amount to enough to make this feel like a city. Scenes are sparse, with often only the central characters on stage, and when depicting the streets of London, a handful of the ensemble present awkward moments of choreography by Lucy Hind clad in trench coats. It's feels slightly stereotypical, presenting a contrived sense of actors trying to depict an oppressed society in movement form, rather than actually depicting this in a believable and meaningful way.

Jodie McNee as Julia, the feminised version of Tom Cruise's film counterpart, impresses in her leading role, yet is introduced in such an antagonistic way as the leader of 'pre-crime', that it takes awfully long to actually empathise with her situation. While this redemption arc is central to her characterisation, it reads as less of an arc and more of an instant switch: Julia goes from the power hungry and confident believer in her system, to immediately doubtful and fearful from it.

This rushed transformation can be felt in much of the book by David Haig; condensing the film into a mere 90 minutes, the play begins to feel like a 'greatest hits' montage, rushing from one big moment to the next, and rarely pausing to reflect on its characters and their internal conflicts, as well as the more obvious external ones. In this adaptation, the whole concept has been condensed into something more digestable, delivering on neither the action (the production is too small to create impressive spectacle), nor the philosophical discussion that ought to be at its heart (this is reduced to incredibly on the nose and surface level remarks).

Epitomised by the opening speech made by Fleming (played by Danny Collins) in which he takes to the stage in protest and spells out the problems with pre-crime - that it strips humans of their agency - the play is unsubtle in its themes that it almost talks down to its audience. Throw in a mix of bizarre moments of attempted humour in which modern tech is discussed, and clunky dialogue that fails to sell the humanity that ought to be at the core of the show, and you have a show that despite opening and closing the show discussing the 'essence of humanity' seems to lack humanity in itself.

The saving grace of Minority Report is that it is entertaining enough; the show is relentless in its pacing and its element of mystery is intriguing enough to keep one hooked. Minority Report is running at the Lyric Hammersmith until May 18th, for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Marc Brenner


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