ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

22/09/2022 - 08/10/2022

Production Details

By Emily Perkins
Directed by Colin McColl

Set in strangely familiar time and place, this is funny, astute and unmissable new play.

What if you could hand your caregiving duties to a humanoid robot with real feelings? 

Visionary scientist Alice is at the cutting edge of her field, striving to generate emotions in robots. But, when those robots are used for domestic service, how will they feel?

As Alice nears her goal, family accusations and workplace betrayals are unleashed – along with an artificial intelligence (AI) creation that is far beyond anyone’s control. Alice and her family – child Sam and ex-husband David – are forced to grapple with what this new technology will mean for humanity and the tension between creator and creation, mother and child, perfect cyborg and imperfect human.

In TheMade, commissioned by Auckland Theatre Company after her explosive re-imagining of ADoll’sHouse in 2015, award-winning New Zealand author Emily Perkins (NovelAboutMyWife,NotHerRealName andOtherStories) explores the concepts of humanity, creation and family connection with characteristic insight and wit. With Colin McColl at the helm, TheMade makes its worldwide debut in 2022.

“This is exciting new writing from a brilliant author, abundant with wit, intelligence and warm humour, adroitly grappling with the ethical quandaries humankind faces as we seek to invest machines with human qualities and just what that might mean…” Jonathan Bielski

ASB Waterfront Theatre, Auckland
22 September – 8 October 2022
Times vary

ADVISORY: Contains strong language and sexual content

Alison Bruce: Alice
Bronwyn Bradley: Nanny Ann
Peter Daube: David / Greg
Joe Dekkers-Reihana: John
Adam Gardiner: The Director
Hannah Tasker-Poland: Arie 
Murdoch Keane: Sam
Kalyani Nagarajan: The Advisor
Josh McLaughlin: Probation Bot / Greg / Delivery Bot
Nikolai Puharich: Secretary Bot / Greg / Delivery Bot
Catherine Wilkin: Mother's Voice 

Colin McColl: Direction
Emily Perkins: Writer
Philippa Campbell: Dramaturg
Dr Dorita Hannah: Scenographer
Nic Smillie: Costume Designer
Eden Mulholland: Sound Designer
Rachel Marlow: Lighting & Video Designer
Brad Gledhill: Lighting & Video Designer 
Hannah Tasker-Poland: Movement Director
Shan Yu 翁俞珊: Set Design Assistant
Sheridan Miller: Costume Assistant

Theatre ,

Entertainingly projects into a believable future with powerhouse performances

Review by Jess Karamjeet 24th Sep 2022

In partial darkness, a mannequin – bedecked in a pale pink wig, white pinafore and pumps – rests on a steel bench. As the ASB auditorium fills, imperceptible movements like the flick of a wrist, or pointing of toes, indicate that the figure is in fact Arie (Hannah Tasker-Poland), already in full performance mode.

The house lights dim and the stage is divided by an opaque screen. Emblazoned on it is the neon blue branding for ‘ATHOS,’ above a sexually suggestive upside-down heart logo. We meet Alice (Alison Bruce), a scientist in the middle of rehearsing a funding acceptance speech for her latest Artificial Intelligence robot. She’s joined by her colleague John (Joe Dekkers-Reihana) – the kind of converse-wearing, long-haired cool kid who will believably run the world in the not so distant future – and the dialogue is witty, engaging enough for those not well versed in the lingo of A.I. There’s also the small matter of Allce’s peri-menopausal hot flashes, played comedically at first, which add to the pile of recent changes in Alice’s life.

Returning to the steel bench stage-space, Alice’s house, we learn the duo did not win any funding to create Arie 2.0 – they are ‘losers,’ which Arie, their working robot, articulates with saccharin glee. Modified from a sex robot, Arie can now feel and articulate happy emotions thanks to Alice and John’s handiwork but Alice wants to upgrade Arie to feel more than that.

Arie’s movements, choreographed to robotic speech patterns, help to root us in believability and, although manufactured with the ‘male gaze’ in mind, Arie is a compelling character to watch. On par in her performance is Alice who conveys interesting struggles: she’s an older woman in science, battling competing interests of a big tech company, and her mother has recently died. Interestingly, Alice also loves Arie despite Arie’s involvement in the breakdown of Alice’s marriage to musician David (Peter Daube).

Alice is afraid to hand Arie over and have her mass-produced by ‘the Director’ (Adam Gardiner) and ‘the Advisor’ (Kalyani Nagarajan) – two caricatures who, with stylised movements and hyperbolic phrases, are they are the kind of people Alice should run from.

There is a subtle crackle during Arie’s speech but overall the soundscape (Eden Mulholland) is less dissonant than one might expect from the science genre and it pleasantly climaxes before the interval.

Through the Emily Perkins’s script, The Made prompts us to imagine a cynical world, full of young adults like ‘Sam’: Alice’s queer child, a university drop-out obsessed with the properties of magic mushrooms, raised by a robot. The narrative explores how young people might feel in the not-so-distant future if they formed connections with robots who parrot claims of love, only for the child to realise in its formative years that they were not loved because the robot was incapable of love.

Sam (Murdoch Keane) is given a couple of scene-stealing monologues, allowed to sit in more realism as they articulate intelligent concepts beyond the ‘magic mushroom-obsessed’ cliche.

At its core, The Made projects into a believable future in which young adults lack coping strategies to self-sooth because they’ve been raised by ‘service bots’.

In the second act, the story switches focus onto Nanny Ann (Bronwyn Bradley) and her performance is comedically captivating, redolent of a private school matron although the absence of Arie during the second act is jarring: Arie has been presented as a central character, through the first act, synopsis and marketing visuals. Her denouement is disappointingly fleeting, and a cleaner interaction between the two bots – steered by Alice – would lift the story beyond the farcical heist.

There is no doubt that the story resonates amongst the audience, with story points similar to ATC’s recent offering Grand Horizons, and The Made is an entertaining evening, made all the more enjoyable by powerhouse performances from the three lead female actors.

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