Visible Fictions – Friends Electric
Robotic story about what it means to be human
Jennifer’s not good with people. She doesn’t have many friends, and isn’t sure how to talk to them. Not that we’d notice – when we meet Jennifer, or Professor Jennifer Peg to use her official title (JPeg for short), she’s in full-on business mode.
Before we can enter the venue, and take part in the ‘Robotech Roadshow’, the Professor scans us for radioactive material, and sprays us with an anti-contaminant. All of which has the young audience giggling before we’ve even begun.
Then, out of a white angular pod steps ‘Mandroid’, the most sophisticated robot ever developed. Seemingly there’s nothing he can’t do – or be. Need a personal trainer to get in shape? He’s your guy (and we’re up on our feet dancing to prove it). Need help with homework? His knowledge of the world, and its languages, is vast.
But before long, impatient to show us the really cool aspects of Mandroid, Jennifer goes off message. Ignoring the Robotech warnings, she ‘syncs’ herself with the robot, bringing about all manner of human emotions in her electronic ‘friend’.
Which is when the show heads in an entirely different direction. Up until then, we’ve laughed, joined in and been intrigued – but now, we really start to feel something.
Leading us back outside the venue to where it all began, the stakes are suddenly a lot higher. And whether it was the group of primary sevens chanting passionately, urging Jennifer to do the right thing, or the deeply touching ending (which we won’t give away here), I seemed to have something in my eye … .
Reviewed at Woodside Library, Glasgow. Touring until Wed 21 Oct.