Blueprints – Pleasance Theatre, London

Reviewer: John Cutler

Writer: Ashlee Elizabeth-Lolo

Director: Jack McMahon

“This feels like an episode of Black Mirror” says Faith, the co-protagonist of Ashlee Elizabeth-Lolo’s reflective two-hander, Blueprints. She is right. It absolutely does. And rather a good episode too. In this case the piece has in its sights the shadowy impact of Artificial Intelligence on relationships. Specifically, how much information is too much information? And just what do you do when you know everything there is to know about your partner, and yourself?

Poet and writer Faith (Aisha Weise-Forbes) bumps into attractive architect Adam (Martin O’Whyte) on a hike through the lush and verdant forest overlooking Birmingham – it sounds unlikely, but you will have to take this bit at face value. She guides the stranger to her favourite woodland viewpoint to take in the vista of “beloved Birmingham glistening in the smog”. He is a secular middle-class boy who goes to the golf club on Sundays. She is a Christian who grew up on a council estate and is single by choice. But they share a steely pride in Black heritage and love soon ensues.

Then a complication. Adam has a family history of dementia. Faith’s people’s curse is generations of women with arthritis. What kind of inheritance will they pass on to their offspring? The sinister AI firm Blueprints offers an answer. Shell out £800, take a blood test, answer some questions (the experience is mid-way between TV’s Big Brother diary room and a probing from an intensely intrusive immigration officer) and generations of intimate family information will be uncovered.

Adam who wants “to eat my Haribos in peace” is reluctant. “Nothing good is going to come of this”, he says. A fiery Faith persuades him to take the test. But is she opening Pandora’s box? It is fair to say many of us would rather not know exactly how many of our partner’s exes he or she has been unfaithful to. That is just the beginning of revelations that will shake Adam and Faith’s love to its foundation. One finds liberation in information, while the other senses imprisonment.

Ashlee Elizabeth-Lolo’s theme in Blueprints is two-fold. Partly this is a comment on the free will versus determinism debate; to what extent is our behaviour the inevitable consequence of forces over which we have no control. But there is a more specific comment here on Black heritage. Adam and Faith are part of a community whose past has been deliberately expunged from history by the evil of slavery. In rediscovering that ancestral past, sightlines to a possible future can become blurred.

O’Whyte and Weise-Forbes have an easy natural chemistry that makes their characters’ relationship entirely believable, but the play dwells way too long on the early stages of their life together. The second much more interesting half, which examines what they do with so much information, feels under-explored. That grumble aside, this is a thought-provoking, insightful piece of ‘what if?’.

Runs until 17 June 2023 then at the Edinburgh Fringe

The Reviews Hub Score

Thoughtful AI drama.

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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