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‘The Future’ review

Theatre, Experimental Battersea Arts Centre , Battersea Until Saturday June 29 2019
3 out of 5 stars
'The Future' by Little Bulb, at Battersea Arts Centre
© Adam Trigg 'The Future' by Little Bulb, at Battersea Arts Centre

A daffy, song-filled look at artificial intelligence from Little Bulb

Very smart robots are probably going to take over the world at some point, and much-loved lo-fi theatre troupe Little Bulb are doing their darnedest to make sure we’re all prepared. So they’ve interviewed artificial intelligence experts and mashed the results into ‘The Future’, a goofy, tricksy hour of philosophy, science, and space rock.

The four-strong cast come in the guise of three profs in elongated tinfoil pixie hats, and a smarmy Aussie presenter who’s persuaded them to share their wisdom at a series of flashy international conferences. This frame gets played with and dismantled like an old computer: are these scientists really who they say they are? Or are they in the pocket of Big Android?

Sometimes, it feels like the latter is true. They make the case for AI as an inevitable consequence of humans’ insatiable curiosity about the world. Yup, it’s scary, but it’s also Progress with a capital ‘P’, of the same kind that wiped out smallpox and brought us valuable innovations like toe socks and i-phones. But worrying philosophical questions dangle: can AI make a mess so big that only AI can get us out of it? Do robots have rights?

Melodramatic B-movie style scenes spell out some of the more dystopian possible consequences of robo-rule in hilarious style. But it‘s a show built on the expertise of AI scientists, who perhaps inevitably are broadly in favour of their android protegees. The analogies between anti-robot discrimination and slavery are misguided, and their inclusion points to this show's wider reluctance to look at the structural social problems AI could cause: in the hands of the richest, this tech could just make an unequal society even more unequal.

Little Bulb’s work so far has often been inspired by myths, folklore and the nature. It’s not that the stripped back, sciencey world of ‘The Future’ doesn’t work, exactly  it’s more that it’s missing the whimsical, prop-heavy mayhem they’re so good at creating, the sense of wonder at the world we live in.

But its squelchy electric guitar sounds and tongue-in-cheek sketches creates something different: a refreshingly accessible intro to a future we can’t afford to look away from.

By: Alice Saville

Posted:

Venue name: Battersea Arts Centre
Contact:
Address: Lavender Hill
London
SW11 5TN
Transport: BR: Clapham Junction; Tube: Clapham Common/Stockwell
Price: £10-£20
Event website: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/45435/whats_on/whats_on/shows/the_future
Static map showing venue location
    • Battersea Arts Centre £10-£20
    • Battersea Arts Centre £10-£20
    • Battersea Arts Centre £10-£20
    • Battersea Arts Centre £10-£20
    • Battersea Arts Centre £10-£20
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