Student writing and science fiction are two things which are often underrepresented in St Andrews. A student-written science fiction show? Now that’s something we really don’t get a lot of.
Writers Sarah Koh and Vanessa Shiao should be commended for tackling such a difficult concept. Set in 2025, No Questions Asked imagines a world where people’s worth is determined through the Electronic System for an Ideal Society; EDIS for short. A number of factors such as occupation and good behaviour influences which tier a person is placed on, tier 1 being the ideal citizen, and tier 5 being a threat to society. A person’s tier affects everything in their life from being able to move freely to being taken seriously by government officials. The EDIS was explained by the commanding and confident Rosie Beech as President Aldric, followed by a tongue in cheek and somewhat kitschy informational video cut together from different animations.
This was a highly satirical concept supported by highly satirical tech. The places this play truly shone were in its comedic moments. Annabel Ekelund provided a bright eyed and bushy tailed portrait of a journalist through her role as Beatrix, her perky approach to the character bringing a much-needed touch of light to the dark subject matter which is all too relevant to today’s society. Her interactions with Manivannan Devendran’s Jax were particular highlights, with the pair demonstrating a believable and adorable fast friendship by playing off one another with ease. Worthy of special mention, in particular, was Alex Schellekens as the cook – he may have had the fewest lines, but his impeccable delivery elicited such a laugh from the audience that I found myself wishing he had more than one short scene as the two-hour long play progressed.
I can’t help but feel the production team did not necessarily intend for No Questions Asked to be particularly funny, but Koh and Shiao have a skill for dry humour, and it was a shame sometimes to see this go unnoticed. As a sci-fi-thriller, while elements of the show worked well – particularly the fantastic Svenia Ratheiser’s quietly powerful judge and Clement Young’s thoroughly dislikeable Mr. Douglas – it lacked the weight it needed for plot twists to come as a shock.
The show’s design was minimalistic but striking. Each character had a prominent colour and everything associated with them, from their costume to their painted polystyrene cups, matched. Most notably Beatrix – the good character – was blue, while Mr. Douglas and President Aldric – the evil characters – were red. An obvious allusion to current events which can be summed up in perhaps the most memorable line of the play, ‘it’s 2025, not 2017’.
Director Manaal Mahjoub’s vision with the play was clear; society today has a class problem. A class problem which has its roots in racism, sexism, and ableism. Society has always had this class problem, and the prospect of it disappearing going forward does not look likely. She wanted to point out the problem of systematic discrimination, and she did, and for that, she should be applauded. Despite several flaws which could be ironed out with some workshopping, the production conveyed the message it set out to convey. I had a fun time, and it left me thinking about the science fiction-esque developments we could be in for very soon if things keep going the way they are.