Alexa who? Greg Wilkinson’s new play Assisted takes an amusing and assured look at the growing role AI takes in our lives, playing at the Golden Goose Theatre now
“Don’t shout at her, she’s not a person”
Hey Siri, can you write this theatre review for me? No? At the moment, voice assistants have their limitations but in a time of extraordinary technological progression and a wide-ranging societal embrace thereof, Greg Wilkinson’s new play Assisted, presented as part of the Golden Goose’s EMERGE2021 festival of new theatre, poses the question about how far they could, or should, go.
Jordan has got himself a next-gen AI – Alivia – and integrated her – and it’s always a ‘her’, studies have shown so 😉 – seamlessly into pretty much every aspect of his life. But as his IRL relationship with Connie grows and she moves in, a real tension begins to develop with their contrasting attitudes towards Alivia and the way in which she intersects, interacts and even interferes with their lives.
It’s a fascinating play and Wilkinson gently but cogently argues the case for and against. From glorified jukebox to efficiency monitor, dance instructor to bacon blocker, the way in which tech is encroaching on day-to-day domestic existence is explored through the prism of Jordan and Connie’s own relationship, both enhancing the highs and exacerbating the lows of their tempestuous connection.
Gareth Watkins’ lo-fi production fits well into the intimacy of the Golden Goose and is very well cast. James Boyd’s wealthy but reclusive Jordan fully embraces Alivia’s presence in his life, helping him to optimise every decision with little thought for the little pleasures of life. And by contrast, Emma Wilkinson Wright’s impulsive Connie is all about those pleasures, asking Alivia for (brilliantly staged) twerking lessons and favourite Kraftwerk tracks.
And the questions that resonate once the play has ended are ones that really do feel pertinent. Is time spent doing menial tasks really time wasted or perhaps useful decompression time? Particularly in the week that Spotify release their Unwrapped feature, how serious are data privacy concerns when it is our own habits being tracked? Lots to think about, if only we all had the mellifluous tones of Alivia (provided by Jessica Munna) to give us the answers.