Hampstead Theatre has announced the full cast and creative team for the world premiere of anthropology – Lauren Gunderson’s gripping thriller about Artificial Intelligence – directed by Anna Ledwich from 7 September until 14 October.
MyAnna Buring (Twilight: Breaking Dawn; The Witcher; Downton Abbey; Ripper Street; A Very Expensive Poison, Old Vic; The Wasp, Hampstead Theatre) and Dakota Blue Richards (The Golden Compass; Skins; Arcadia, English Touring Theatre) are joined by Yolanda Kettle (Patriots, Almeida; Deep Blue Sea, National Theatre and Eden, Hampstead Theatre) and Abigail Thaw (Endeavour and The Strange Death of John Doe, Hampstead Theatre).
Lauren Gunderson, playwright said:
“I can’t quite express how meaningful it is that Hampstead Theatre is welcoming me back and trusting me for the world premiere of anthropology. I began this play in 2022 a full year before the launch of ChatGPT and the rapid growth of AI that we see all around us now. Hampstead was the very first theatre I shared it with, and its truly exhilarating to meet this moment and bring this play to life with Anna Ledwich and our phenomenal cast and creative team.
“While anthropology is a roller coaster of the contrasting tensions between technology and its creators, this play is truly a very human story of family, grief, resilience, love and sisterhood. The grounding thesis of this play is that all new technology – like all art – is first and foremost a method of expressing and coming to understand ourselves. Our tech tells us who we are long before we tell it what we want it to be.”
“I built you because this is what I do. It’s my job. These are my tools, I used them, and honestly it’s not that hard – you’re basically a chatbot.”
Merril is one of silicon valley’s leading software engineers, but her life disintegrates when her younger sister Angie vanishes on her way home from college. A year later, when the police have long abandoned their search, Merril assembles all the digital material Angie has left behind and sets about building herself a digital simulation of her sister. The resultant ‘virtual Angie’ offers her some solace – until, that is, it starts to reveal new details about the real Angie’s disappearance.
San Francisco-based Lauren Gunderson is widely recognised as America’s most performed playwright and this autumn will have three plays running simultaneously in London and the UK. These include the world premieres of anthropology at Hampstead Theatre and The Time Traveller’s Wife in the West End, along with The Book of Will at Shakespeare North. Lauren’s play I and You was a huge success at Hampstead Theatre in 2018. Author of over 20 plays, Lauren has also received the Lanford Wilson Award at the Dramatists Guild Awards and two Steinberg/ ATCA New Play Awards.
Anna Ledwich will be directing her twelfth Hampstead Theatre production where her previous work has ranged from Labyrinth to the Olivier-nominated productions Dry Powder and Four Minutes Twelve Seconds. Joining Anna Ledwich is designer, Georgia Lowe; lighting designer James Whiteside; sound designer Max Pappenheim and video designer Daniel Denton.