Artificially Yours at the Riverside Studios | Review

How many of us ask Alexa or Siri questions and take for granted the fact that interacting with robots has gradually become the norm? The dramatic rise in the use, and potential threat, of A.I. is a hot topic. In the arts and entertainment world, there are fears that it could one day replace actors and writers. In the wrong hands, there could undoubtedly be catastrophic consequences without proper regulation. It is not overdramatic to say that something created by humans could one day overtake them with such ideas now closer to reality than they are to science fiction. Of course, there are many perks to the myriad of smart devices each of us now has to hand.

Artificially Yours - Ella Jarvis (Ellie) and Jake Mavis (Noah).
Artificially Yours – Ella Jarvis (Ellie) and Jake Mavis (Noah). Photo by Andrew Fosker.

Writer Aaron Thakar, who also performs, uses this as the basis for his debut play Artificially Yours. Agapē, which bears a startling resemblance to an Alexa device, can guide and counsel couples with suggestions of what to say and how to behave should they encounter turbulent times. Recording conversations and offering observations, its purpose is to help yet we are aware from the off that it also has the power to hinder.

Three couples place their trust in the device for various reasons. We quickly become acquainted with Pippa (Leslie Ash) and Martin (Paul Giddings). The two are divorced but have maintained a relationship with somewhat uncertain boundaries. He seems to have moved on with a much younger woman while she struggles to navigate the often-perplexing world of dating, yet they find themselves enjoying one another’s company more often than they would care to admit.

Lilah (Destiny Mayers) worries her partner Ash (Thakar) is spending too much time with Agapē, while he feels she is more focused on her career than him. When the couple are invited to Lilah’s colleague’s home for dinner, truths are drawn out and cracks in both partnerships are brought to the fore, allowing for some strong character-based comedy along the way.

Ella Jarvis, who also produces, portrays neurotic Ellie with aplomb, executing effective comic timing throughout her interactions with her polar opposite partner Noah. Jake Mavis, who was a late addition to the cast, utterly impresses in his debut stage performance. A ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of guy, Mavis excavates as much comedy from his character as possible and manages to steal most of the scenes he is in. An actor with great promise.

There is some strikingly observant and pleasingly pithy writing here, however one senses the script could have benefited from further edits. We occasionally meander around certain repeated topics and when the play feels to be drawing towards a natural conclusion, we proceed further, which is to the detriment of the pace. Further characterisation would also be welcome. While the cast are all deeply committed and make the very best of the material, they simply do not have enough to work with to provide us with fully fleshed-out, developed characters we can properly invest in. Leslie Ash is criminally underused and it would have been nice for Mayers’ Lilah to have been afforded more time and attention.

That said, Thakar establishes himself as a writer/performer with tremendous potential. Artificially Yours is only running for two weeks but here is hoping with some further revisions the play is granted a future life.

3 Star Review

Review by Jonathan Marshall

A gripping, dark-comedy that explores the hilarious and disturbing consequences of our society’s increasing trust in Artificial Intelligence.

Three couples allow an AI relationship therapy device into their homes in the hopes it can solve the pettiest of arguments and help them grapple the most complex, human issues. Divorce, jealousy, shenanigans, could AI be the key to domestic bliss?

Don’t miss this exclusive 2-week run starring Leslie Ash (Men Behaving Badly, Quadrophenia).

Contains strong language and sexual references.

CAST AND CREATIVES
Pippa – Leslie Ash
Martin – Paul Giddings
Lilah – Destiny Mayers
Ellie – Ella Jarvis
Ash – Aaron Thakar
Noah – Jake Mavis
Agapē – Katherine Moran
Paulo – David Boyle
Director – Hannah McLeod
Writer – Aaron Thakar
Producer – Ella Jarvis
Sound Design – Jeremy Zolnai-Lucas
Stage Manager – Jen Tucker
Deputy Stage Manager – Beth Scott

ARTIFICIALLY YOURS
FRIDAY 12 – SUNDAY 21 APRIL 2024
https://riversidestudios.co.uk/

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