Review – Utopia by Penny Woolcock at the Roundhouse

A slatted polythene screen hides the entrance to Utopia – a video loops upon it, images of corpulent bankers and shoppers falling over each other to get to sales bargains are interspersed with images of people living on rubbish dumps. Just in case you don’t get the message a prerecorded loop of audio warns us that there is more to life than trainers.

It is a thuddingly obvious start that gives a fair indication of how the rest of the attraction will wear on. It is not long after this that you will be hearing the voices of young people explaining how the education system discarded them – literally from inside a bin.

Penny Woolcock recorded thirty seven people from Camden over the course of two years, this material has been brought together to generate the hundreds of stories that intersperse through Utopia

But for all this audio there is only one voice and that is Woolcock’s, and her voice is disappointingly pedestrian, patronising and desperate for approval. It is a mediocre Guardian article given authenticity through the voices of people whose only purpose here is to serve the artists preconceptions.

By the end of the attraction Woolcock has given up on pretending she cares about those people whom were interviewed and simply has them read More’s ‘Utopia’ for the camera. All that remains after this is for us to visit the corner of the attraction where she kindly gives offers visitors a reading list. ‘This will blow your mind’ she writes after recommending ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ by Baudrillard.

Utopia might be less insufferable were it delivered with care or aplomb but it is not. The sound designs are obvious and unexceptional the playback systems show nothing by way of innovation.

Block9 whom designed the sets are clearly capable of great work, you can see quite a lot of it in the program – where it is passed off as being part of Utopia. What they actually provide for the attraction is poor.

It is little surprise to see a who’s who of the ineffectual left have been invited to speak at the event, in many ways Utopia functions best as a allegory for the hard left in 2015, a consumerist echo chamber reiterating the unproven prejudices of those involved and conveniently underwritten by the taxpayer and big business.