We’ve just had a brilliant week of fully-charged creative development on My Robot. Olivetti the robot now only has around 90 electric-sheep-filled sleeps until he makes his stage debut on opening night! We can’t wait to share him with the world!
I knew we were onto a good thing in Monday’s rehearsal, when I noticed something happening outside the window. We were rehearsing on the first floor of the State Theatre Centre, which has a glass wall overlooking Perth’s Horseshoe Bridge. People on their morning commute had stopped on the bridge and gathered in a group. They were pointing as they peered into our rehearsal room window 30 metres away. Of course it was our prototype Arthur the robot taking his first roll around the room. Arthur waved to them and they broke into massive grins and waved back.
It has been a busy and productive five days. The team we have assembled are massive legends and it is always so much fun to get together. Over the week, we got to climb a big mechanical pile of technical whizzbangery with robot designer Steve Berrick (shaggy hair, back row). And we’ve dived into a deep and deeply satisfying pool of aesthetic lusciousness with designer Isla Shaw (front row, improvised blonde beard).
We’ve also spent time on building and deepening the text with writer Finegan Kruckemeyer (stylish jumper, back left corner). The story we are exploring is sheer inventive delightfulness – all about a girl and her robot. But the story also asks some challenging questions.
Whenever I work on a play I try to tackle something that I don’t fully understand. No matter how playful or absurd a play is, it needs to have a question that provokes or challenges me in some way. The genesis of My Robot, was a growing sense of our society’s unease at the speed of change. This seemed to be a fear that crossed generations – a sense of insecurity about a coming technological age where our familiar place as humans might be challenged. These fears ought not be too easily dismissed. Like many fears, they are grounded in what we don’t yet understand.
It seems to me that in a changing world, one of the things that is needed is a clear sense of what is important to hang onto. Enter Ophelia! Arielle Gray’s Ophelia is a perfect embodiment of a child’s bravery in the face of change. She is a passionate, positive and immensely practical hero. She is compassionate, inventive, thoughtful and brave. And she is a hero who ultimately refuses to simply accept things as they are.
My wish is that My Robot encourages a deep and thoughtful engagement with our changing world for our youngest theatregoers. Rather than facing change with fear, they can choose curiosity and bravery as companions.
I find it touchingly poetic to think that as our technology grows more advanced, we may grow more human. When labor, science, manufacturing, sales, transportation, and powerful new technologies are mainly handled by savvy machines, humans really won’t be able to compete in those sectors of the economy. Instead we may dominate an economy of interpersonal or imaginative services, in which our human skills shine.
But not all of the questions we grappled with this week were so deep and complex! Below are a few of the practical answers we came up with over the last five days:
- Yes our little robot can make things fly across the room.
- Yes he can roll very quickly in many directions.
- Yes his head will stay attached while he whizzes around if it’s stuck on really well.
- If it falls off a pot plant holder will do the job in a pinch.
- Yes he can shoot silly string! And it’s awesome.
- No he can’t roll over an electrical cable.
- Yes St John the actor can make all his costume changes.
- No, he can’t do it without losing a litre of sweat.
- Yes Arielle Gray fits into a packing box (and it’s adorable).
After a great week of development, we are one stainless-steel step (or wheel rotation) closer to revealing everything. Bring on November!