Express & Star

Brum Rep succeeded where Tom Cruise failed, brave production of futuristic Minority Report worryingly close to present day

A futuristic tale of a dystopian future written 70 years ago but eerily precedent of the present, writes Adam Smith.

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Jodie McAnee stars in Minority Report

Minority Report at The Birmingham Rep was a night of serious drama.

Phillips K Duck penned Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep which Ridley Scott brilliantly brought alive in Bladerunner in perhaps the greatest transition of from page to screen.

Tom Cruise had a bash at Minority Report, starring in a slick breathless version of Dick's tale about the state knowing which citizens will murder before they do.

The stunts were great, the love interest attractive but the film had the philosophical depth of gnats eyelid.

But put Dick in the hands of a talented playwright, who will use the philosophy conundrums and moral mazes as fuel for drama, then the sci-fi writers stories can sing on stage or screen.

Minority Report at The Birmingham Rep was adapted by David Haig. A talented actor, and writer who has created Minority Report which is very much his own but keeps faithful to the unnerving novella.

Written in 1956, by writer whose relationships with women betrayed a misogynistic side, but then again, he was not too respectful of men either. He moved in with a male fan as his years advanced and did everything he could to take his wife, in his own house.

So one fundamental change Haig made was changing the sex of the lead character. From the beginning to the end it was Julia Anderton whose real-time journey from murderer-predicting software company PreCrime founder, whose belief in her company was born out of the loss of her twin to a killer, to a sceptic scarred by the concept becoming all too real.

The 80 minute play rattles along at a frenetic pace, and was all the better for the lack of an interval. The play was set in 2050 but with the advent of AI and social credits in China the future seemed around the corner, or around the world not a generation away. The dialogue crackled, with black humour not far from the surface, time travel can be a gift to writers but also they can get lost down an infinite rabbit hole of in-jokes.

And Haig knows about jokes, and crime, his portrayal as Inspector Grim in The Thin Blue Line is a criminally forgotten brilliant comic take on plain-clothes cop CID culture.

Haig did not fall into that trap, so when he allowed himself to write "when the NHS was dismantled" it hit the mark. And whatever year it is, you know there will be someone, somewhere, when faced with a civil liberties liberty will say: "If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about."

Max Webster used The Rep's stage, and stage hands, emotively and at times breathtakingly, as scenes switched from inside to outside and state-of-the-art futurescapes to grimy ghettos in the blink of an eye.

A longer play might have given lead actress Jodie McNee the opportunity to deliver a more nuanced performance, but she brought the cast, the Crown's Nicholas Rowe nailing the haughtiness of a Home Secretary, and audience with her right to the climatic end.

Minority Report is a joint production by The Rep and Nottingham Playhouse, and this run is its world premiere, and is what brave reperatory theatre is all about.

Minority Report is at The Birmingham Rep until Saturday, April 6.

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