Pros: iAM 4.0 is fresh, fun and unpredictable, with some timely themes.
Cons: The show is not one for wallflowers.
Arriving breathless at the top of the stairs at the Bush Theatre for a totally unadvertised gig, my accomplice and I were excited to participate in what was described as a ‘secret focus group’. After a few minutes sat panting in the waiting room, we were ushered into Dr Grey’s office, asked a few questions to determine our moral compass and then grouped accordingly – a neat framing device and an exciting prologue to warm us up for what was to follow.
Without saying too much, the audience (split into three teams) was encouraged to interact with their team’s iAm, a synthetic humanoid programmed to do anything you please – ‘much like a real life Siri’ the white-coated woman at the back of the room reassured us. Plot-wise, the audience was there to help the creators refine their product for public release. What happened next was a series of games requiring audience participation, many of which were based loosely on the sorts of psychology experiments your best English teachers would reference in class. There was even a challenge featuring a cat called Schrodinger…
The cast’s robotic performances (this was a good thing) were simultaneously full of and devoid of emotion – their tweaked performances felt genuinely artificial, enhanced by their Photoshop-style hair and makeup. The audience was given the opportunity to kit out their iAm, much like a role-playing game, even getting to choose their name and
accent. Eerie backing music combined with the replicants’ synchronised responses made for a creepy nod to the not-too-distant future. The synths and doctors waiting on standby have to be applauded for their ability to create believable responses to the audience’s questions on the spot, even if they did cut each other off a bit. Similarly, the bits of script that were clearly pre-written sounded convincing rather than cheesy, which happens all too often when the plot has a scientific edge.
Unfortunately for the purposes of reviewing, this is one of those shows where the less that is said, the better. It’s one that you should just go and see, as talking about it too much would ruin the fun – and there’s plenty of that to be had.
Creators: Mel. Cook & Helena Thompson, in collaboration with iAm companies 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0
Producer: Helen Milne
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run at Bush Theatre but will be playing at Southwark Playhouse on 11-12 and 17-19 August and at Park Theatre 25-26 August 2017.