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People Show 145: The Diviners at the Golden Goose Theatre

With deliberately disjointed dialogue, this is a show that takes the scenic route to make a singular point, namely that artificial intelligence (AI), while it has made considerable advances, still has some way to go to plumb the depths of human behaviour and emotions. Rather than stating that there is nothing in its frame of reference on a particular matter, the diviners of the show’s title (Fiona Creese, Gareth Brierley, George Khan and Sadie Cook, using their own first names as character names) instead tend to freeze up instead. The malfunction is resolved, following the advice of almost every IT department in almost every company in the world, by turning an AI device off and turning it back on again.

People Show 145: The DivinersExcept there are occasions when it isn’t as simple as that, and I was amused by a scene in which two of the diviners had disagreed to the point where they were trying to turn one another off, resulting in a fight. Most of the show’s humour, however, derives from imperfect and/or incomplete information, such that the diviners attempt to understand the world with whatever knowledge is at their disposal – there aren’t, for reasons unexplained, any human software developers that install updates. It is rather like observing schoolchildren who know so much but whose worldviews aren’t fully developed as they still have so much more to learn.

Truncated conversations make the show somewhat less accessible than it otherwise could have been – that said, I was tempted to imagine what it would be like if certain humans could be turned off in a similar manner. There’s never, thankfully, any immediate danger to themselves, humans or the animal kingdom, and this is far from a dystopian scenario in which the robots have taken over everything. Humans are not, in this imagined world, living in a totalitarian regime where ‘Computer Says No’ cannot be overridden. Someone suffering a bereavement is the recipient of a card of condolence whose content is garbled at best and insensitive at worst, but that’s about as bad as it gets.

Some contemporary topics are explored quite playfully – for instance, one diviner’s commitment to question everything is responded to by another asking why. Quite where the relationship between AI and humans is supposed to go once the show (and its narrative) ends isn’t clear, which is fair enough, as it is frankly a great unknown. Elements of absurdism creep in occasionally but otherwise, it’s intelligent and perceptive, and it’s short and sweet without being rushed or saccharine.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

An electrifying and strangely topical story, People Show 145: The Diviners plays out in an imaginary world not so far from our own. Four broken AI entities, each colour-coded, are trying to make sense of the world – but they no longer have the correct data. These are The Diviners. A vibrant cuboid trap defines the parameters of their actions with hot spots calling the shots and flickering projections giving clues. In their fragmented state they explore a nether world existing between the lines of stories and through lost harmonics of music.

People Show 145: The Diviners
Golden Goose Theatre
146 Camberwell New Rd, London SE5 0RR

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