I Woke Up Feeling Electric
Reviewed – 6th February 2020
“a fun and imaginative take on the Sci-fi genre from first timer Robson”
How did we ever cope before the likes of Alexa and Siri being there to aid with (almost) every aspect of our lives? Some may say perfectly fine thank you very much. However, there’s no denying they are slowly taking over. Jack Robson’s playwriting debut, I Woke Up Feeling Electric, inventively looks at how they control our day-to-day in a playful yet thought-provoking way.
What if your home assistance AI was actually, well, rather human? Bertie is one of the originals. He’s been here a long time, giving his owner Charlie all the help and information he needs. He loves his job. He lives for his job. But then again, he’s never had reason to doubt it before. Until Vita comes along. Vita is a newer, more intelligent model who invades Bertie’s space and rocks his world. Trying to get to grips with his lively intruder, Bertie is forced to reassess everything he has so far come to know.
This is an interesting new take on the ‘robot resisting its job’ storyline, à la the likes of Blade Runner, and Westworld. Basing it around the home assistance type AI of Alexa and Siri, which is being used by more and more of us, makes the play far more relatable, and as a result, far more fearsome. Much in the same vain as TV show Black Mirror strives to make you feel. The humanising of AI is something that undoubtedly could happen in the near distant future.
Jack Robson plays the neurotic, uptight Bertie with perfect rigidity, much like a quintessential, English butler. Think Jeeves, with a touch of foppish Hugh Grant. A stronger change in character when rebelling against the system would have been nice to see, but this is more likely an issue with the writing or the direction. Christine Prouty has a clearer, much neater shift in persona from vivacious to clinical, reversing the trajectory of Bertie. Both actors give energetic performances that are highly watchable.
The simple yet effective set design (by Giorgia Lee Joseph) of the bare black box theatre, save for a few rows of UV, fibre-optic looking strips running along the walls and floor, evokes the technological no man’s land that Bertie and Vita are trapped inside. It immediately conjures up the stylistic motif of the classic Sci-fi movie, Tron, transporting you into a futuristic paradigm.
As well performed and as strong a concept I Woke Up Feeling Electric is, the writing doesn’t always live up to the rest. The ending feels underdeveloped and rushed, whilst the bickering between the two AI’s eeks out too long, where more emphasis on a driving plot line is needed. Regardless, this is still a fun and imaginative take on the Sci-fi genre from first timer Robson. It certainly makes your paranoia around Alexa even greater!
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Photography by Stefan Hanegraaf
I Woke Up Feeling Electric
Hope Theatre until 22nd February
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: