A new production by Tmesis Theatre, Beyond Belief, focuses on a company that resurrects the dead using their digital footprints . Tilly Marsh talks to writer Elinor Randle about life after death, the most impersonated man in the world and the real-life keepers of our digital souls.
When Elinor Randle was researching a new play about a man who enlists a tech company to help bring his wife comes back from the dead, she discovered that life was stranger than fiction.
“When I started looking into it there were already so many digital companies that would already help you with your digital legacy.”
Randle, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Tmesis, was alarmed to find an increasing number of companies already monetising our online profiles after we die.
“I thought actually ‘oh no!’ – if these websites are our new memorial sites, we aren’t going to visit graves anymore. That’s a scary and fascinating thing.”
In Beyond Belief the protagonists find that a living recreation of a person, stitched together from digital fragments and downloaded into a new body, may be initially preferable to the misery of grief, but raises more troubling issues.
The production explores the relationship between man and wife through physical theatre, with relatively sparse dialogue, a stark set of interlocking blocks and, oh yes, musical interjections and wisdom from The King himself.
Randle, with writer Chris Fittock, thought Elvis encapsulated the modern paradigm of people both dead, but apparently still with us.
“We were playing around with the idea that we don’t let him die and that he lives on forever, he is trapped it is about reality and non-reality.
“Elvis was the most impersonated person in the world – he was perfect for it.”
Tmesis is known as one of the UK’s leading physical theatre companies, which creates new productions for the stage and in Physical Fest, an international festival of workshops and productions from creatives across the globe.
Previously Physical Fest ran annually, but due to funding cuts have left a two-year gap between the last season of events in 2017 and its return in 2019. Randle says the events are an opportunity to push the envelope of what is normally seen in Liverpool.
“We set up Physical Fest to bring exciting, international physical theatre practitioners to the city to do workshops and screen things that normally wouldn’t be shown in Liverpool.
“I think it’s been harder than ever to create but also remain true to what you want to tell, as well as taking risks in your work – that’s always the balance.
So what does Randle want audiences to take away from Beyond Belief?
“I want people to feel something about themselves and the world and just be entertained.”
• Beyond Belief runs until 6 October at Unity Theatre before touring at The Arts Centre, Edge Hill University and Vanbrugh Theatre, Chester.