New Wave Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Wilkie Branson opens up the conversation on mental health and loneliness in his bold digital production TOM. A culmination of digital and analogue animation, Branson guides us on a man’s groundhog day journey of monotonous commutes, the relentless rat race and battling with depression. From the vast green expanses of the countryside, to the metallic, futuristic surfaces of our transport system – we as the viewer are constantly reminded of our protagonist’s loneliness – the unspoken emotion more commonly felt than realised.
Branson and Barret Hodgson‘s animated world ingeniously bridge the worlds of video gaming with a theatrical setting, Branson navigating his way through various scenarios, each new level bringing with it a new challenge. Benji Power‘s musical score intensifies the loneliness felt as the eclectic soundtrack pulses, races, drones and murmurs – we’re advised to wear headphones to capture the soundtrack’s full scope and rightly so, the piece’s audio aspect an integral driving force pairing brilliantly with the video game aesthetic.
At points an uncomfortable watch, we’re reminded of how we ourselves can be our own worst enemy, addressing loneliness we rarely, or if ever overtly discuss it. TOM is a tale of discovering who you are whilst going through turmoil, a questioning of self, a stark look at reality and its unforgiving aspects. TOM refers back to the playful, care free elements of youth, and how we deviate from this by the time we’ve arrived at adulthood, an alternative perspective that brings to home how we’re conditioned to bottle up emotion rather than address issues there and then. A poignant watch.
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
TOM was shown as part of Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage Season, to find our more about the performance, visit here…