Melanie Anne Ball and Joe Ball of Heart to Heart theatre here give us AI Love You, a punchy piece of ‘Interactive theatre’, where the audience ‘pick their own play’. This might sound too trivial though; from the off, they are not simply asked to arbitrarily pick a story, but to in fact address and confront their own moral standpoint on some hefty issues.
Twenty-somethings Adam and April sit edgily on two sole chairs in this theatre above a pub as the audience seat themselves, and for the first five minutes, they could be two nervous actors wondering if the doors are closed.
We quickly realise there are underlying dilemmas that explain the unease. They love each other, but April is ill and wants to be put to sleep. Adam is dependent on her and doesn’t want to let her do this, feeling his own choices should have sway. To curdle the mixture more, April is not human, but rather has been ‘made’ for Adam, who partook in an Artificial Intelligence trial, and he consequently has developed a strange dependency on her.
The audience are not just observers. In fact, they form the ‘Ethical Steering Committee’ (a deliciously 2017 phrase) and they are on several occasions open-endedly asked ‘Whose argument do you support’? You might support both. You might support neither, but you can’t abstain. Each time, with Ayckbourn-like experimentation, the action then takes us in a certain direction, according to the result of the ballot. The committee get more information from ensuing scenes, then vote again. The process is repeated until a final decision is reached.
It raised big questions concerning assisted suicide and it would have been interesting to see this explored in the drama without the AI concept. It is also a stark reminder of the freewheeling nature of technology in this century. How profoundly and how soon will robots be part of what we do, and will they start manipulating our feelings?
In an unusual passage near the end, those behind the mirror opened up the floor for the committee to briefly cross-examine both characters individually, and in this time of referendums and elections, we were quickly reminded of Question Time and TV debates and Theresa and Jeremy hankering for votes again.
The set was nothing but two chairs and a dirty mirror, behind which ‘they’, the AI people, presumably stationed themselves. The two actors, Eve Ponsonby and Peter Dewhurst, did a fine job in holding the play together alone in that small space, creating believable arguments. Both had the satisfying knack of making the dialogue naturalistic, each chopping each other’s sentences and slightly ad-libbing in the pauses.
Audience members do see the many sides of the debates played out here; we are certainly fascinated, but I have a hunch the vote will only go one way for audiences over the next ten days of the run. You’ll find out which way that is when you go.
Review by James Willstrop
Meet Adam and April: a regular twenty-something couple who enjoy socialising, going to the gym and bingeing on Netflix. Adam doesn’t always do his share of the dishes, and April sings country songs that annoy Adam in the shower. They’re not perfect, but they were blissfully generic until April’s body started shutting down. They have gone from building dreams of a future to arguing about how long April should live hopelessly before meeting her maker- a corporation who bring their story to your attention
Now, as April’s demise hangs heavy in the air between them, you are invited to explore with them what it was that made them so perfectly average; and given a powerful vote to decide whether she should be allowed to die before Adam is ready to say goodbye.
AI Love You is an interactive show by Heart to Heart Theatre which discusses the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence. Putting the audience at the centre of this ‘choose your own story’ play, AI Love You allows the audience to create the fate of the characters, and make heartbreaking decisions about their lives that linger long after the lights have gone up.
Created by Heart to Heart Theatre
Writer: Melanie Anne Ball
Director: Joe Ball
AI Love You
by Heart to Heart Theatre
Wednesday 14th to Saturday 24th of June