Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Neverwant: the algorithm of life. A brand-new story about a passion that can’t breach the firewall. If everything you’ve ever yearned for is just a constant impending update, what’s left to want? Isn’t the definition of freedom a heart without desire? Neverwant explores a world where love is nothing more than a bug in the system.
Technology advances almost minute by minute. The world is aggressive, progressive, dynamic, connected. Corporations and bots monitor our spending habits and online presence while algorithms process data at breakneck speed to provide marketing demographics to the highest bidders and self-pronounced gurus sell self-improvement plans to over-stressed executives. This may seem an alien world, a landscape foreign to our sensibilities, but it is not so far as you may think and some would argue that aspects of this societal change have already begun to take root. How soon after your last online purchase did you find an ad for the same or a similar product popping up on your social media news feed?
The world of Neverwant is clinical, white, and unemotional, uncluttered with extraneous and unnecessary things. We see two uniform chairs and some hospital-like screens emblazoned with corporate imagery and verbiage which seem somewhat out of place in the claustrophobic whitewashed stone bunker whose walls and doors seem more at home in a medieval castle or dungeon. But this juxtaposition is also an element of the narrative. The characters are trapped both literally and mentally in their created world of perceived perfection. Complex emotion is outlawed here with ‘difficult’ feelings like love, hate, and lust being filed away in a database of how people used to live. A database, of course, which is also outlawed by the powers that be. Anything you should care for can be catered for and provided for by the corporation. Companion droids understand your every need even before you do. Relationships are a thing of the past giving way to much more convenient no-strings flings. If there’s something you want or something you need there literally is an app for that.
Into this world of boxes, databases, and single units, there comes the proverbial fly in the ointment, a not unexpected blot on the otherwise white horizon and it’s an interesting scenario to be presented. Where do we find humanity in a world that has criminalized emotion? How do we justify our primal urge as living breathing humans to experience complex feelings and inter-personal relations? These are just a couple of the many and various questions that are asked without actually asking and it does feel as if the narrative at times lacks coherent direction. We cannot help but think of other science fiction movies and television which are more developed, but there’s a vibrant idea here which given more time and focus could flourish into a challenging and thought-provoking piece.
Neverwant is an entertaining look at society and where we could end up in the very near future, indeed some would say where we are going to end up. The inevitable conclusion to the current trajectory of our social-media and online-shopping-obsessed world. While the narrative and the writing could have gone further and, perhaps, asked more focused questions of the curious and cautious audience, the premise is certainly intriguing. Seek out the bunker and come to your own conclusions – the future is yours for the viewing – but what are you willing to sacrifice?