Thursday, 18 April 2013

Robots Vs. Art, April 17, 2013 ***

By Travis Cotton 
La Mama Theatre, Carlton, until May 5, 2013
Melbourne International Comedy Festival  
Stars: ***
Reviewer: Kate Herbert  
 Review also published in Herald Sun on line on Friday April 19, 2013.  KH 

Just like Data in Star Trek, these robots want to experience Art and emotion.

Simon Maiden in Robots Vs. Art
Actors paled when they heard of a Japanese company in 2009 performing a play with robots instead of actors, but Travis Cotton was unfazed; he wrote a comedy about it.

Cotton’s play, Robots Vs Art, is set in a futuristic, sci-fi world in which humans now work mining minerals deep underground and are subordinate to the robots that they created.

Of course, just like Mr. Data in Star Trek, the executive Master Bot (Simon Maiden) wants to experience Art and to feel human emotion so, what does he do? He writes a play.

Daniel Frederiksen is entertainingly guileless as bemused, fearful Giles, the only human left alive, and captures Giles’ aimless, confused complexity of the human race that cannot be quantified by the robots.

Some of the dialogue and characters have some laugh-out-loud moments, particularly Claw Bot, the dim-witted worker robot, played with clever comic timing and delivery by Paul David Goddard.

Maiden plays his Executive Bot as a heartless, corporate boss who transforms into a playwright who punishes his critics with beatings, and then into a pompous, theatrical producer.

The play satirises the idiosyncrasies of theatre and playwriting, so some humour may be lost on those not from the world of the rehearsal room and stage.

Despite its laughs, the script feels a little long and undercooked and the story predictable, while Cotton’s direction is sometimes awkward, with too many slow, clunky scene changes.

It’s certainly a bit of fun though, and it makes a welcome change from all those stand-ups in the Comedy Festival.

By Kate Herbert

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