Friday 25 May 2018

Sex with Robots and Other Devices @ The Kings Head Theatre

Sex With Robots and Other Devices @ The Kings Head Theatre

Androids are everywhere. At least, that's what popular culture would have us believe. Cinema is full of android characters examining their humanity, Blade Runner 2049 and Ex Machina to name two recent examples. On the silver screen, there are new seasons of Westworld and Humans. And it extends to video games too, with new game Detroit: Become Human on PlayStation 4 depicting an android revolution.

Sex with Robots and Other Devices at the Kings Head Theatre fits into this sci-fi oeuvre. Set in a twisted, dystopian near-future, it is essentially an episode of Black Mirror in theatrical form. Lifelike robots have become a sexual commodity impacting a whole range of different relationships. But how does that affect our humanity? And what about the humanity of the robots themselves?

The piece shifts through multiple stories, showing different sides of the same issue. Amongst others, there's a man who clones his ex-lover to relive their relationship; a couple looking to explore the "sin" mode of their android; and an android who slowly learns feelings and begins to question whether sex with his owner constitutes rape. Really, the use of robots is a metaphor for us to question the very prevalent notions of consent and exploitation.

The sci-fi themes are perhaps unoriginal, but Nessah Muthy's play is sharply written and well thought out. It's concise and compact, much like the staging that features multiple compartments in the tiled floor, and the use of just three actors whose subtly mechanical movements are suggestive of these near-humans. Choreographed scene changes also add a stylish flair.

The use of multiple stories does create a convincing world, but the lack of a continuous narrative means this is more a broad exploration than a deep dive into the individual dilemmas the play presents. Each of the stories is intriguing enough to warrant a longer performance, but they're frustratingly cut short. The final scene, however is a misstep: a direct address to the audience that undermines the subtleties of the work overall.

Muthy is also too preoccupied with a dark and disturbing vision. Each of the stories focuses on the negative impact of robots into our lives - but what about the positive effects? Could robots actually benefit us in some way? By merely touching on themes, the play results in a multitude of further questions. That spark, though, is testament to the strength of the writing.


Watch: Sex With Robots and Other Devices runs at the Kings Head Theatre until June 2nd.

Sex with Robots and Other Devices @ The Kings Head Theatre

Sex with Robots and Other Devices @ The Kings Head Theatre
Photos: Nicholas Brittain