We’re still quite a step from having a troop of replicant humans among us – à la Ridley Scott’s classic 1982 sci-fi ‘Bladerunner’ – but it is true that in the last 50 years or so, robot technology and artificial intelligence have advanced scarily. We have robots to build our cars, robots to fight our wars, and, in South Korea, even robots to teach in schools. But what if robots also became pupils?
In Bekah Brunstetter’s new play, a couple marches in through the school gates to learn from their fellow pupils how they can be better humans. They are Godfrey and Olive, two artificial intelligence robots, who just want to make friends.
Following their progress is a reality TV documentary crew, who appear as a disembodied voice overhead: ‘That was great! Can we run that again?’ they interject over moments which weren’t necessarily being played out for TV.
The show is a vamped-up high school comedy-cum-moral enquiry, and when Lisa Caruccio Came’s Olive and Dan Crow’s Godfrey first appear – complete with rigid, machine-gun-style delivery and matching pastel-coloured costumes – the clichés grate. Around them are the pupils: the religious one, the goth, the popular one, the jock, the gay one, etc etc – all of whom are dealing with these two robot anomalies while also facing the usual teenage traumas.
While the play itself stretches what is essentially one idea over an hour and a half, Max Pappenheim’s production is very slick. There are some nice, non-gimmicky choreographed moments, and the fast pace keeps you right there with the strong cast the whole way through.
It’s not without laughs either, especially in a teen-robot love scene, played out to Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ which will make you howl with laughter and shudder in equal measure.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell