Pros: A challenging storyline in the hands of a highly competent cast.
Cons: The snapshot, scenario based approach to storytelling feels rushed and fails to develop the more intriguing characters.
It’s not often that one gets to attend the world premiere of a brand new play; well it had already been previewed but I was at the official opening and that’s good enough for me. Sex With Robots and Other Devices has now opened at the doyen of pub theatres, the King’s Head. It presents a fascinating though disturbing insight into how robots might be used in the near future.
Just imagine if a sex robot could be ordered via Amazon; an exact facsimile of your partner, fully programmable according to your own needs? Incredibly, this scenario is not so far away. Robots will apparently emerge as their own species by 2040; a hotel in Japan is now entirely staffed by robots who greet guests, carry luggage and clean rooms. Even more scarily, 40% of people in the UK don’t think sex with robots counts as cheating??
Over the course of seventy five minutes the play presents a number of scenarios wherein characters use a sex robot. Isaura Barbe-Brown, Deshaye Gale and Eleri Jones alternate as robots and humans as they combine to create mini playlets. The robots are used to boost a flagging relationship, as part of a threesome or in some cases in place of a human. Characters discuss the relative merits of different models, much like the latest mobile or tablet.
It raises deeply troubling questions about the power and influence robots could possess if we allow them to progress this far. Would simply flicking a switch or pulling a plug necessarily disarm them? We admire our creations but have not stopped to think whether we should even go there? Robotics are generally a well-worn subject in film and literature (Westworld et al), but were previously viewed at a cosy distance. Now reality is ready to bite and I can only feel a sense of foreboding.
The play was well written and acted, but impetus was lost because of the rapid turnover in characters and stories. I feel the piece would work better if it focused on one story and one set of characters, allowing a stronger narrative to emerge.
Author: Nessah Muthy
Director: Bobby Brook
Producer: Cloakroom Theatre
Booking Until: 2 June 2018
Box Office: 0207 226 8561
Booking Link: https://system.spektrix.com/kingsheadtheatre/website/eventdetails.aspx