Show title: The Future – Venue: Battersea Arts Centre, London
Writer: Little Bulb Theatre
Director: Alexander Scott
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
The Future is a quirky exploration of Artificial Intelligence and lies somewhere between a TED Talk and a rock gig. However, its focus on zany and nerdy humour means that it fails to ask any new questions about AI that haven’t been asked already.
The show’s initial conceit is cute: an artist has come to The Laboratory of the Future in order to help the scientists there expound their complex theories to the general public. The artist has the scientists role-playing in ‘what if’ scenarios, and putting their ideas to song. Of course, this means there’s a great deal of dumbing-down, and while this is deliberate, it’s not always very funny. The audience, the real one at the BAC and the imaginary one in the play’s premise, could have handled a lot more undiluted science.
The scientists, all wearing tinfoil spikes on their heads, are based very loosely on the philosopher Nick Bostrom (Shamira Turner), the physicists Max Tegmark (Eugénie Pastor) and David Deutsch (Dominic Conway), while the artist is based on an Australian version of performance artist Marina Abramović. Clare Beresford is suitably egotistical as Marina, but giving her such a strong Australian accent turns her to an icy Dannii Minogue. She takes credit for everything and it’s a gentle dig at all those artists-in-residence working at scientific institutions.
While their representations of the future struggle to get the laughs, Little Bulb Theatre are more successful when it comes to the songs, which could easily be the foundations for an AI musical. The songs vary from the very bizarre opening Tapping at the Lid to the Philip Glass-inspired Risk. The final song requires Beresford to sing so high that the staff at nearby Battersea Dog’s Home must be very busy of an evening.
The Future only lasts an hour, and has the feel of a work-in-progress. There’s a real sense that this show will change and evolve over time. Let’s hope that in the future The Future will be a little bit brighter.
Runs until 29 June 2019 | Image: Jack Offord