BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

21/06/2018 - 30/06/2018

Production Details

Is killing an android that thinks and feels like a human, murder?  

“Whether we are based on carbon or on silicon makes no fundamental difference; we should each be treated with appropriate respect.” Arthur C. Clarke, 2010: Odyssey Two

Zach and Ida were in a relationship. One night he calls the police in a panic – he has strangled her to death during an argument. It is discovered that Ida is a level 7 humanoid android – indistinguishable from a human. Zach swears it was in self-defence but the police believe otherwise and charge him for her murder.

Now Zach is in the trial of his life: did he commit murder or was he defending himself against an out of control android? You, the jury, will set precedent in this ground-breaking case as you consider the ethics and morality around artificial intelligence, examine your own prejudices on what it means to be human, and determine the fate of the defendant. 

Don’t Date Androids is an exploration of the ethics and morality surrounding human interaction with artificial intelligence and the ongoing development of robotics in the modern day.

The Creative Team

Lightbringer productions is a theatre, film and performance art company that aims to explore the issues and intricacies of the modern world through the use of new and historical texts and techniques. They aim to create experiences that are accessible to anyone.

With products designed and produced by the local community, the team includes a collection of new and emerging talent supported by experience, providing a platform in which to upskill and gain proficiency in both performance and crew work.

Find us on Facebook: @lightbringerprod

BATS THEATRE The Heyday Dome*
21 – 30 June 2018
Full Price $20
Concession Price $15
Group 6+ $14

*Access to The Heyday Dome is via stairs, so please contact the BATS Box Office at least 24 hours in advance if you have accessibility requirements so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.

Defence Counsel:  Hamish Boyle
Prosecution Counsel:  Ivana Palezevic
Judge:  Kristin Leslie
Zach Thomas:  James Bayliss
Ida Aceseron/ Dispatcher/ Doctor Fitzgerald:  Jamie Fenton
Detective Pedroski/ David Carson:  Chris Gibbons
Ida's Father/ Sergeant Steven Gilman:  Jonathan Ensor
Kylie McKenzie/ Susan Wilson:  Charli Gartrell
Bailiff:  Phil Nyasha Mtambo

Sound design:  Evangelina Telfar
Lighting design:  Devon Nuku
Stage manager/ Marketing:  Alida Steemson 

Theatre ,

1 hr 15 mins

Courtroom drama with allegorical implications

Review by John Smythe 22nd Jun 2018

The premise of Don’t Date Androids, set in the 2030s, is that Zach Thomas is on trial for murdering his girlfriend Ida Aceseron who is, or was, a top-of-the-range level 7 humanoid android: independently capable of thinking, feeling, sensing, remembering, learning … She is, or was, indistinguishable from an actual human; in fact Zach had not realised she was an android until that fatal night.

The title suggests it’s a cautionary tale. The publicity sums it up as “an exploration of the ethics and morality surrounding human interaction with artificial intelligence and the ongoing development of robotics in the modern day.” But as it plays out through the classic dramatic structure of an adversarial courtroom drama, where our assessments and judgments – as the designated jury – keep changing, the allegorical implications of Stefan Alderson’s compellingly complex play elevate it from simple sci-fi fantasy to socio-political allegory.   

While the Prosecution claims Zach strangled Ida in a violent rage, the Defence argues she was attacking him and he was acting in self-defence. There were no witnesses so Zach’s version of events and the post-mortem evidence are all we have to go by. Other ‘witnesses’ are the investigating detective, a drunk neighbour, Ida’s BFF work colleague and flatmate, Ida’s less-sophisticated android foster father, Zach’s ex-girlfriend and a senior Sergeant with special responsibilities concerning errant androids.   

As directed by Devon Nuku, all these elements – drip-fed and tightly controlled by the exacting rules of judicial process – make for good drama in themselves. What adds the real juice, however, are two laws concerning the responsibilities and rights of androids: the Android Disclosure Act and the more recent Android Protection Act 2031. This is where the historical emancipation of women/ slaves/ refugees/ minority groups resonate, as we each form our judgements and decide which button to select on the tablets that record our Guilty or Not Guilty vote.

Phil Nyasha Mtambo does an excellent job of convincing us the court Bailiff is an android, programmed to respond to voice commands from Kristin Leslie’s soft but firm presiding Judge. Given the increasing quality of androids, part of the intrigue is considering if any of the other characters might be androids.  

Ivana Palezevic’s Prosecution Counsel and Hamish Boyle’s Defence Counsel both confidently assert their arguments, playing the facts vs suggestions game with professional zeal, while James Bayliss becomes more and more uncertain of his fate as Zach.

The doubling actors convincingly differentiate each character. Jamie Fenton is the eager to please (mostly) Ida, in photos and in flashback, and the more clinical android ethics specialist Dr Rebecca Fitzgerald. Chris Gibbons’ upright Detective Pedroski contrasts with the dubious neighbour, David Carson. Jonathan Ensor is reticent as Ida’s android foster father and very secure with his status and power as Sergeant Steven Gilman. Charli Gartrell offers very different personalities as Ida’s best friend/ work-mate/ flatmate Kylie McKenzie and Zach’s ex-girlfriend Susan Wilson.

The set (uncredited) is rudimentary and a designer with a bit of a budget might have worked out a way of making the transitions to the two flashback scenes less clunky. The interview scene simply dramatises the detective’s evidence while the post-meal and sexual congress scene depicts Zach’s version of how a lovely evening went so badly wrong.  

Following the closing statements, a clear directive from the Judge about assessing the facts from the evidence presented would not go amiss. As the jury, we do not have the luxury of moving to a room to discuss the case. We are simply invited to vote, anonymously. Nevertheless the play has focussed our minds on important issues as we wrestle with the evidence and confront the inherent moral dilemmas in the process of enacting our social responsibility.  

A majority carries the verdict – which I won’t reveal from opening night lest it influence you when you see it. I recommend you do. 


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