Tuesday, November 22, 2022
HomeTheatreREVIEW: The Made (Auckland Theatre Firm)

REVIEW: The Made (Auckland Theatre Firm)



It might be one of many strongest photos in our collective popular culture consciousness: Frankenstein’s monster rising from the working desk – the product of a younger man enjoying god now set to wreak havoc on the world.

The ‘creation scene’ in Emily Perkins’s The Made occurs not at the start however roughly the midway level. Scientist Alice (Alison Bruce)’s private {and professional} life are on the rocks: her work on synthetic intelligence has been rejected for funding, her ex-husband David (Peter Daube) exhibits no indicators of desirous to reconcile and her grownup little one Sam (Murdoch Keane) has dropped out of college to pursue drug dealing – all within the wake of the demise of her tough mom. For a second, Alice finds reassurance in Nanny Ann (Brownyn Bradley), the outdated robotic she made to take care of Sam whereas they have been rising up. That’s, till she springs up off of her lap, eyes alight with the realisation — “You aren’t my mom, you’re my creature!”

Cue an exhilarating, loud and visually spectacular sequence during which Alice resurrects Nanny Ann and goes past something she’s completed with AI earlier than. Colin McColl’s route and Eden Mulholland’s creative sound design alongside Rachel Marlowe and Brad Gledhill’s daring lighting make this play out like a mad scientist’s fever dream. However whereas Alice and Nanny Ann are the preliminary focus, our consideration is pulled to Alice’s first creation within the background.

That is hapless Arie (Hannah Tasker-Poland), manipulated by the corporate that had simply bought the rights to her. A former sexbot Alice reworked in her zeal to create empathetic AI, Arie can to this point solely ‘really feel’ glad. We’re instructed that she can’t really feel love as a result of for that she would want to know the world. There may be the central query: methods to fill her with greater than merely happiness, and may we? In Arie’s naive state, Alice is reluctant to current her to a public that may solely use and abuse her. She tells assistant John (Joe Dekkers-Reihana) that it’s their accountability to deal with her properly as a result of how they deal with her is who they’re. 

Tasker-Poland, who doubles because the present’s motion director, is hypnotically convincing as Arie, emphasising her halting gestures and speech whereas investing her with sweetness and (albeit unwitting) sass. I missed her presence within the latter half of the play and virtually wished we might have seen extra of her journey and relationship with creator Alice, who loves her whereas recognising she’s an “equipment”.

But Perkins has a eager consciousness of tempo and establishes character and relationships swiftly and successfully, as does the forged. Bruce is great from scene one, portraying Alice’s arc over the course of the present with humour and emotion. All through The Made, Alice is the goal of criticism from nearly everybody. Fortunately, the present delves into her flaws as an alternative of portraying her as both a one-note villain (leaning into the stereotype of bold, clever girls being impassive) or a easy sufferer (recalling ‘empowerment’ narratives during which the feminine protagonist is made boring as a result of all the time being proper). Nonetheless, I couldn’t assist however wonder if we the viewers are supposed to agree with a few of these critiques, reminiscent of John’s complaints that Alice simply handled him like one other machine when the opening scenes counsel a real friendship between the 2. Although carried out properly by Dekkers-Reihana, John’s storyline feels much less important than others. 

At its coronary heart, The Made is about Alice and Sam. Regardless of rising up round AI, Sam finds magnificence not in machines however the advanced neural networks of mycelium. Sam’s ardour leads Alice to include such networks into her personal work, leading to an up to date Nanny Ann, performed with scene-stealing vitality by Bradley. Nanny Ann’s brashness and company couldn’t make her extra totally different from pliant, perpetually cheerful Arie (“What are you for?” she fires again when a human character asks what her perform is). 

It feels proper that a few of the present’s ultimate scenes deal with the dynamics between Alice, Sam and Nanny Ann — and never inside Alice’s laboratory however exterior in nature. Scenographer Dr Dorita Hannah and set design assistant Shan Yu’s elaborate design shines all through, and right here they create an virtually Edenic scene unfolding earlier than a foliage-rimmed window. It’s a hanging distinction from the steel screens and industrial greys that made up the set earlier than, as Alice good points a ‘window’ into what would possibly actually matter in life. Sharp, hilarious and thought-provoking, The Made is a terrific theatre expertise with themes that may solely develop extra related as synthetic intelligence turns into extra distinguished in our lives.

The Made performs ASB Waterfront Theatre 20 September to eight October, 2022.

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