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Review | Free Your Mind | Aviva Studios | 18/10/2023

Celebrating the long-awaited opening of Aviva Studios, the home of Factory International, comes Free Your Mind. Inspired by the Academy Award winning sci-fi epic The Matrix, Free Your Mind is like nothing you have ever seen before.

The story we know has been updated for the modern day, forcing the audience to question not only their own views on AI, but also the social media age and its effect on the human condition. A video on a small television has founder of computer science Alan Turing addressing the audience in a speech, which feels more like a warning. This quickly transforms into a powerful ensemble dance performance, with Kendrick ‘H20’ Sandy’s bold and powerful choreography never loosing pace throughout the entire show. This is arguably the best dance show of the year, if not decade!

Michael Asante has composed a wall shaking soundtrack which compliments the choreography beautifully. In fact, there isn’t a single creative element that misses the mark at any point. Costuming by Gareth Puth is astonishing; visualising claustrophobia with a sea of dancers struggling to free themselves from long white fabric tubes, stretched to the ceiling. As we find ourselves in a world perhaps closer to Orwell’s 1984, several costume choices denote this in a wonderfully unsettling and disturbing way.

From the moment you enter the expansive industrial foyer, you are brought straight into the immersive world of The Matrix. Let’s just say, you will quite literally ‘follow the white rabbit’ to your seat. The show starts in the Hall, which is perhaps an understated way to describle a plush 1,603 seat theatre, but I digress! As the opening show for this iconic venue, it does however make sure to fully utilise and show off the building.

The most impressive utilisation of space was in the Warehouse for the second act. This expansive space, just under the length of a Boeing 747, was dominated by a huge screen stretching from one end to the other. Video design by Luke Halls gives a glimpse into Manchester’s past, fittingly set to New Order’s Blue Monday as the second act commences. It lifts to reveal the rest of the audience on the opposite side, forcing audience members to uncomfortably stare at each other. The extensive use of video throughout the rest of the show is juxtaposed beautifully against the 50 strong cast on stage. It doesn’t take looking through the credits to know this piece was directed by the incomparable Danny Boyle.

This is a truly an experience that cannot be easily replicated elsewhere. Free Your Mind has well and truly put Factory International on the map, setting the benchmark for others to aspire to.

Free Your Mind is on at Aviva Studios until Sunday 8 October 2023. See below for booking information

Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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