Society’s current fixation with owning the newest model of Mercedes or the latest iPhone is to be expected in today’s age of multi-million pound advertising campaigns. Reflections on yesteryear are fast becoming a pastime limited to history students and retro advocators. But failure to examine the past is tantamount to repeating mistakes. Susan Robertson speaks to us about the influences of nostalgia and technological isolationism in her production of Genna Bard’s When the Clock Strikes.
“When I was a child I was very much outdoorsy, I would play with my friends outside, I didn’t have a TV and I didn’t have a computer until I was 13”, says Robertson, discussing the expectation of the contemporary youth culture to have uninterrupted access to technology. “That’s quite strange in this society, a lot of my friends would have Sega Megadrives and I wouldn’t know how to play the games. But I wasn’t even interested, I would get bored and suggest we play outside instead.”
But Robertson believes it’s not just the youth who’ve been affected by the massive influx of mind numbing entertainment. “I think because these things have been invented, people are losing the imagination to invent other things for their kids to do”, suggesting that some parents rely too frequently on these quick fix distractions rather than engaging with and encouraging their children’s imaginations. “Now there are so many different things you can give your kids to keep them occupied, people try and palm them off with those.”
This attitude can be seen in some of the play’s characters. “There are quite a lot of parts in the play where they use their imagination. One of the characters is in the transitional stage between primary and high school where she is introduced to make-up and designer clothes but still wants to play with her old toys.” Robertson admits that there’s also an element of self analysis here too, similar to Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, where the characters reflect on past actions, “It’s about saying: your time is up, what have you done with that time, have you tried to do everything you wanted?”
Partly inspired by Dali’s melting clocks, there’s a surreal constituent to this production. “There are absurdist elements to the play, the design aspects of it are quite absurdist,” and with a cast caught in a quasi-purgatorial situation, joined by a character from another time, there’s a necessity for the suspension of reality. “That fits in with the nostalgic element, he has passed his time and experienced the difficulties the other characters are going through, enabling him to act as a guide through their problems.” With viewers hopefully identifying with the underlying themes of the play, Robertson hopes this attitude of self reflection will inspire her audience to spend less time hypnotised in front of screens, allowing them to concentrate on activities they can look back on with fondness when their clock has struck.
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