Culture Editor Ilina Jha reviews the theatrical adaptation of Minority Report, praising the cast performances and creative staging, movement, and sound

Written by Ilina Jha
Images by Marc Brenner

The latest show to grace the Main House auditorium at the Birmingham Rep Theatre is Minority Report (playing until 6th April). Written by David Haig and directed by Max Webster, Minority Report is a futuristic sci-fi thriller set in 2050, where Dame Julia Anderton (Jodie McNee) is celebrating the tenth anniversary of British Pre-Crime – a programme that scans the brains of humans across the country in order to detect and imprison people who intend to commit a crime. The system appears to be perfect, and Julia is determined to protect it at all costs – but when she finds herself accused of pre-murder, she is forced to question the programme she has dedicated her life to.

Minority Report is based on the sci-fi novella by Philip K. Dick (which was also adapted into a film starring Tom Cruise). Haig is very open about his playscript being a loose and creative adaptation of Dick’s classic story, stating in the show’s programme: ‘The Philip K. Dick Estate have been incredibly generous and said that, as long as you use the title and the basic premise of Precime, ie that you can anticipate murder and get criminals off the streets before they’ve even committed the crime, you have complete freedom to write exactly what you want – and I’ve taken them at their word.’ Haig’s main change is in the lead character, transforming the head of Pre-Crime from John Anderton to Julia Anderton. He explains that ‘it felt right to write an exciting part for a middle-aged woman in a sci-fi thriller,’ and I couldn’t agree more. In a genre that is so male-dominated, it is exciting to see a woman in the lead role.

In a genre that is so male-dominated, it is exciting to see a woman in the lead role

The play itself has an intriguing premise and raises many questions about the nature of justice and human behaviour. Is it right to monitor people’s brains 24/7 for the sake of reducing violent crime? To what extent is human behaviour premeditated or spontaneous? Can we change our minds when we know what we are predicted to do? All these questions and more are raised, explicitly or implicitly, throughout the play. There are some truly harrowing and horrific moments, particularly when the ethical problems behind Pre-Crime become more and more apparent. However, some elements of the story are not explained that I feel should be illuminated. Additionally, Haig claims that he tries to write dialogue that mirrors the way people speak in real life, but some of the lines in Minority Report don’t live up to this intention, and instead feel a little too obvious or cliché.

The cast deliver, on the whole, a fantastic performance. Tanvi Virmani is impeccable as David (Julia’s AI assistant) and is responsible for a lot of the play’s humorous moments (of which there are several, providing some light relief in this very serious and dark play). McNee delivers a powerful performance as Julia; however, I felt that the character of her husband George (Nick Fletcher) was a little shallowly developed, morally, and Fletcher’s dialogue was rather quiet at times – he could have projected his voice more.

One of the most impressive aspects of this production is the creative use of movement, staging, lighting, and sound

One of the most impressive aspects of this production is the creative use of movement, staging, lighting, and sound to evoke scenes that are difficult to portray on stage. Chase scenes, fugitive escape running, and car crashes are all conveyed successfully. The costumes are also well-designed; Julia’s change from her very put-together, professional outfit at the beginning to her jumbled, rough-and-ready fugitive outfit is a particular highlight for me.

Overall, despite some underexplained and vague elements of the plot, Minority Report is a powerful and intriguing play.

Rating: 3.5/5

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