If you could bring back a loved one from the dead, could you possibly resist? In a near future where resurrection is a reality Beyond Belief, by physical theatre company Tmesis, poses some awkward questions about how we enable that – and how we probably can’t and won’t stop it, despite our unease.
When his wife Chloe dies, Simon is stricken with grief. And when a representative from the titular company offers to revive her, he can’t refuse. Simon might complain that no-one asked them to recreate our consciousnesses, but as the Beyond Belief management point out, no-one opted out.
“It’s a choice we made,” says the company’s Exec VP. And it’s hard to disagree. Our digital lives have been willingly scattered throughout the electronic synapses for anyone to pore over – here the tech giants are able to recreate algorithmic facsimiles of ourselves from our discarded data. Faced with the physical and emotional misery of intense grief, who could resist the idea?
Faced with the physical and emotional misery of intense grief, who could resist bringing a loved one back from the dead?
Beyond Belief duly revivify Chloe and pack with her data gleaned from social media. When Simon asks if she remembers their wedding she reels off a list of facts: she wore a blue hat; she drank five G&Ts; 70 people liked it. It doesn’t take long before you’re wondering how much of your own wedding exists somewhere in a tech farm. And, for our protagonists, that’s about as good as it gets. Beyond Belief makes for an intriguing production and the physicality Tmesis is known for feels indivisible from the narrative.
There’s a curious intersection between grief and death in speculative fiction: Blade Runner, Solaris and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind to name but three. Beyond Belief finishes more like the Black Mirror episode San Junipero in suggesting the logical endpoint is to exist not in our corporeal bodies, even as reanimated versions of ourselves, but somewhere more ethereal. “The data, the code, communication, forever, Amen,” is a mantra that invokes the evangelical righteousness of our real-life tech Gods.
Interventions from Elvis are amusing but vaguely unsettling; a David Lynch visual with a Dennis Potter soundtrack. Will Elvis ever really die? Forever impersonated, recently hologrammed and almost certainly with an album out for Christmas, The King is perhaps our best example of how reluctant we are to let people go.
That we might choose to live without the physical and mental frailties of real life seems a possibility that’s alarmingly close. Beyond Belief is an engaging, believable and affecting exploration of that world which, as the play points out, is Coming Soon.