“Educational and entertaining, well-worth taking the kids to”
As a child I was never particularly into science. At school the lessons were boring and didn’t challenge me to think creatively or engage with it in real life situations. Uncanny Valley, however, does both, placing today’s children at the heart of a situation we may well find ourselves in 30 years’ time.
Essentially it’s a show about humans and robots, and the difference between the two. With the world becoming ever more robotic, the subject matter is engaging for audiences of all ages and I certainly learned a thing or two about artificial intelligence and the Turing Test during the performance. While I imagine 9-year-old me might have struggled with some of the concepts and sitting still through some of the longer “lesson” parts, many of the younger audience members seemed to grasp it fairly well and engage in the interactive elements.
As a children’s piece, one can forgive a certain amount of ridiculousness and be able to suspend disbelief to still be able to enjoy the action. Credit goes to the actors for keeping the performance engaging, with boundless energy creating big, bold characters that are instantly relatable. Kirsty Stuart in particular shines as the cut-throat Mayor who’ll stop at nothing to eliminate robots in her town.
I would have liked closer attention paid to the narrative to keep it seamless all the way through: there were quite a few unexplained jumps in time and location in the story, and I never quite believed Ada’s relationship with her adopted parents. In saying that, some of the theatrical elements are very well done: the Turing Test at the end of the show is funny and gripping; the open moral discussion about whether to swerve a car off road and kill a group of chickens to save yourself is very thought-provoking, and I was even able to feel emotional connection with the robot characters of OKAY and SARA, which adds a really nice dimension.
The beginning is a little confusing – I feel that Rob Drummond as facilitator perhaps tries too hard to convey a lot of factual information early on and doesn’t seem as comfortable in parts of audience interaction as I would expect from an experienced TIE professional. These are only small moments throughout the piece though, as on the whole it’s quite slick and professional.
Overall, Uncanny Valley is educational and entertaining, and well-worth taking the kids to, as long as you’re ready for a bit of thinking! Theatrically it is a bit rough around the edges but still full of heart.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 31 March)
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