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Review: i woke up feeling electric, at Hope Theatre

Artificial intelligence assistants have a life of their own in play with echoes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

13 February, 2020 — By Emily Finch

i woke up feeling electric is at the Hope Theatre. Photo: Stefan Hanegraaf

HAVE you ever wondered what Alexa or Siri might be thinking about you?

The Hope Theatre’s i woke up feeling electric, by debut playwright Jack Robson, takes place in a world where artificial intelligence (AI) assistants, Bertie (played by Robson) and Vita (Christine Prouty), have a life of their own.

Bertie starts completely subservient to his master Charlie’s voice by following his every command in a way reminiscent of PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves. He rings a bell to wake up Charlie in timely manner every morning and ensures his master arrives promptly to work meetings and dates. He would never dare go against Charlie’s wishes or displease him.

After the slightly more advanced and self-aware Vita is thrust into his life through a “sync” he finds himself questioning his conditioning and his small world. One of the most interesting moments is when Vita boasts she can predict the songs Charlie wants to hear by tracking where he’s been.

It’s disappointing that there is only a limited mention in the play about how tech companies gather and handle large swathes of our personal data, often without our informed consent.

With these issues bubbling in the news it would have been wonderful to see a greater exploration of this theme.

Nevertheless, Robson’s play is well worth a watch – it’s intelligent, well-acted and suspenseful. With echoes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Robson’s monster is something made out of society’s collective consciousness and need for convenience.

Robson and Prouty are both confident and engaging actors and I’m already excited to see their future work.

Until February 22
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