Friday, 25 June 2021

Desperate father learns being human is not all bad

HUMANKIND has a long-held fascination with technology and artificial intelligence, and this Eighties piece from Alan Ayckbourn and directed by the man himself shows his prescience regarding the digital age.

Ayckbourn loves to take a look at all our little foibles and here he wraps them up in a world of automatons, with their own sets of imperfections.

It is the near future, in a somewhat dystopian society, and music composer/sound obsessive Jerome is holed up in his fortress home of a recording studio.

However, for someone engulfed in an auditory laboratory, he is remarkably tone-deaf when it comes to human emotion.

We learn that he has an estranged wife and daughter and is keen to impress the Department of Child Wellbeing at their forthcoming visit.

To this end, he has some hired help in both human and android form. What follows contains some powerful lessons on the meaning of love and literally the objects of our affection.

The futuristic setting was realistic and believable with video messaging calls and instant playback facilities, while the costumes had the measure of the theme exactly, each with a little distinct twist.

There were some fabulous scenes, very cleverly done, where we had an android lady presented as a human, having been programmed to respond to verbal cues such as the word “precious” eliciting a kiss.

It was a great game to watch and see whether the humans had clocked this robot impostor, leading my husband to coin the phrase “sci-farce.” The various guises of android acting were a joy to behold and felt authentic with lots of comical moments.

This was an interesting study of human behaviour, little rituals and interactions. The more attention Jerome paid to capturing little soundbites, the bigger the picture around him grew and the more he stood to gain or lose.

As there were tussles over what was best for daughter Geain and wife Corinna slowly revealed her vulnerable side, we watched in suspense and hoped the penny would drop for Jerome that for all our flaws, there’s a lot to be said for being human.

Until Saturday.

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