Find out what it means to be human in the age of technology in this 75-minute puppeteer show. 

Foundations was created at Durham University and originally produced with Wrong Tree Theatre Company before partnering with Ultraviolet Productions for this run. AV Bodrenkova and Aimee Dickinson co-directed the show with Bodrenkova doubling as the technical designer. Becky Latcham and Sophie Tice co-produced, and Josh Powell did the composition and sound design. I’m especially impressed with this production as half of cast and creators are in university or have only recently graduated!

The venue, The Studio at Wimbledon Theatre, provided an intimate setting for the production, with only a few rows of seating. The stage was decorated with a few metal scraps and a curtain in the back. The real magic of the show came from the lighting and sounds. Their original soundtrack was brilliant. The lighting was used to distinguish the above world from the underground. They also utilized light as a creative prop, for example using hand-held lights to imitate a laptop. Movement was an essential and beautiful part of Foundations. The actors’ movements were sharp and clear, making it obvious what they were simulating. Their movement sequences were sharp and cool to watch, although sometimes going on for a little too long. 

Charlie Culley’s performance really emphasized MJ’s wholesomeness, innocence, and curiosity; I instantly loved her. Hannah Lydon (Yann Norton/administrator) skilfully captured the multi-layered character of Yann Norton – loving aunt, stressed engineer, and controlling administrator of the robots. Although the entire cast was impeccable, the highlights were puppeteers Rory Gee as Bolts and Olivia Swain as Pins. They did a phenomenal job embodying the traits of robots, such their intonation, lack of contractions in their speech, facial expressions, and body movement.

While heart-warming, the story and its themes felt very familiar, especially when you think of it in terms of Pixar films. (The synopsis for Foundations describes it as a ‘Pixar film come to life.’) The older family member ends up being a misunderstood villain, making the younger family member feel betrayed. The human tries to explain human experiences, like rain, fun, music, and friendship, to a robot. The climactic scene is deus ex machina; the less powerful character is somehow is able to evade her doom. Nonetheless, it is an uplifting show with a happy ending. 

Foundations was on for just one night at the Studio at the Wimbledon Theatre before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – a very well-deserved feat. If you plan on going, don’t miss this family-friendly, wholesome puppeteer show!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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