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Review of Sex with Robots and Other Devices at the King’s Head Theatre

Left to Right: Eleri Jones, Isaura Barbé-Brown
Left to Right: Eleri Jones, Isaura Barbé-Brown

The concept of robots has been around for thousands of years. Basically, since humans first learned how to work, they started thinking about ways of getting out of it by having some device do the work for them. Since then, technology has moved on and these days, either directly or indirectly, robots are a part of our lives. Already, there is a hotel in Japan staffed with robots and how long will it be before we get our automated friends to do everything that we would rather not? A question that is examined in Nessah Muthy’s one-act play Sex With Robots and Other Devices, part of the Sex Season at the King’s Head Theatre.

The show – performed by Isaura Barbé-Brown, Deshaye Gale and Eleri Jones – sees a future where ordering a totally realistic sex robot is as easy as getting a takeaway delivered. Each scene shows the interaction of human or humans with their own personal robot, and we get an idea as to why they have decided to go down the route of automated love. The robots are everything their owners can ask for, attractive, available and compliant with whatever they are asked/told to do, but the problem with modern technology is that there is always an upgrade coming out, and if one of those upgrades includes changing the operating parameters of the robot, enhancing its ability to learn, then where does it all end?

The scary thing about Sex With Robots and Other Devices is that the technology to make robots as described in the play is not that far away. Artificial Intelligence or AI, is growing in leaps and bounds. Additionally, synthetic skin and the internal workings are all getting better so soon, possibly too soon, ‘human’ robots could be a possibility. Writer Nessah Muthy takes this idea to an extreme that, actually doesn’t seem that impossible and one which raises a host of ethical questions which the audience is left to wrestle with after the curtain comes down. The most obvious one is that of consent. Considering that robots are made for sex, then it could be argued that consent is implicit, but as the AI develops and the robot starts to question then where does that sit and what happens if the robot’s owners go further – because after all, it’s only a robot fulfilling their fantasy. The other main one for me was in one of the latter parts of the show where someone had a robot made that was the image of their ex-partner but without that person’s knowledge. So, along with the creepy aspects of the idea, the question of do we own our identity is raised. For example, If I wanted a robot that was the spitting image of an ex-boyfriend, would that be OK? And if I subsequently went on to abuse that robot sexually then what does that mean? Is it better that I’m abusing a robot rather than taking my frustrations out on the real thing or is it worse because I’m destroying the line between reality and fantasy? Better men than me will leave the theatre after Sex With Robots and Other Devices ruminating over these conundrums.

The three actors play both humans and robots very well, and I particularly loved the opening scene with Deshaye and Eleri as the two characters going through a really difficult and embarrassing time in their lives. I also loved Barbé-Brown playing both a robot and human version of herself in the same scene. Excellent work by both the actor and Director Bobby Brook. Helen Coyston’s striking and flexible set, with its many surprises, along with Tanya Stephenson’s Lighting and Yaiza Varona’s sound works well to provide the various locations for the scenes and the intra-scene music, and when combined with the acting maker for a fascinating show which leaves lots of questions open and gives a chilling glimpse into a future that is, rather scarily, not that far away.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Consider the future of sex. The terrifying, the inevitable, or perhaps the exciting answer to our problems. In a world where your partner can arrive in an Amazon package, or your child can be chosen off the shop shelf, how much will curiosity and ease play into people’s temptation.

Sex With Robots and Other Devices is the new play from Writers’ Guild nominee Nessah Muthy (Heroine, The Host, Gastronauts), presented in a co-production between King’s Head Theatre and Cloakroom Theatre. Cloakroom are an all-female collective, and are working with an all-female creative team to create the show. Sex With Robots and Other Devices directly follows King’s Head Theatre’s Who Runs The World? season (by female playwrights), and is a direct response to the under-representation of female voices in theatre.

I turned it off. Shut it down. Re-booted it. It started asking questions and I didn’t want that, made me feel uncomfortable.

King’s Head Theatre and Cloakroom Theatre present:
Sex With Robots and Other Devices
A new play by Nessah Muthy
Directed by Bobby Brook
Tuesday 15 May – Saturday 2 June 2018
King’s Head Theatre
115, Upper Street, N1 1QN

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