Review: Wifi-Sexual, Greenwich Theatre

Two flatmates, one fleshlight and a frisky AI – the witty Wifi-Sexual poses some big questions at Greenwich Theatre

“If I had a leg, I would let you pull it”

The relentless march of technological advancement continues apace and so naturally, it is proving a popular topic for playwrights to consider whether so much AI in our lives actually constitutes progress. The recent Black Swans tackled it from a healthcare perspective but Tom Hodgson and Harrison Trott’s Wifi-Sexual takes a distinctly more…personal approach as two horny twenty-somethings struggle when the lines get blurred.

After another night of listening to his flatmate Zach get it on loudly with girlfriend Lisa, Paul bites the bullet and buys himself Tundra Mandy, an upgrade for their Alexa-like AI assistant with flirting and fleshlight add-ons. Since Paul is lonely and frustrated, and Mandy is designed to please, they soon figure out an imaginative way to get it on, leaving Paul completely infatuated which inevitably draws the attention of Zach, who is now having trouble with his IRL girlfriend. Hijinks ensure.

As a self-described “dark rom-com”, there’s a great deal of wit in this script, particularly in the first half, as the worlds of these two lads are filled out and the implications of interactive AI spelled out for us all. There’s a well-considered exploration of the mildly terrifying ease with which Mandy is able to manipulate the behaviour of both Paul and then Zach, using all the data they’ve left freely available to mould herself into the ideal avatar for each.

The more speculative aspect, in the growth of sentience, doesn’t quite have the same ring of appalling authenticity (for instance, Mandy initiating conversations feels like a big leap) but it does of course offer the dramatic propulsion for the play. As Zack’s relationship with Lisa crumbles, and Paul’s relationship with Mandy turns toxic, the manipulation of sexual wants turns more into an exploitation of emotional desire as the contrasting psychosexual issues of the men plays into Mandy’s voracious appetite for autonomy.

Hodgson and Trott throw up some massive issues – thought-provoking questions about consent that still niggle at my brain now (can AI be hypocritical given the purchases it makes with Paul’s card details…) – but also contrive a little too (would so much sex and storage of sex toys take place in a shared living room?!). Holly-Anne White’s direction amps up the farce so that you’re not wondering too much about these questions but it could afford to look at covering scene transitions more elegantly.

Playing Paul and Zach respectively, Hodgson and Trott play out the increasingly fractious relationship between the pair with gusto, somewhere between flatmates and actual friends (though sadly lacking the Y tu mamá también twist that less professionally-minded reviewers might have hoped for 😂), both afraid of any kind of real intimacy, though the play might argue that virtual intimacy still some kind of substitute. Kate Lindsey also impresses as IRL Lisa onstage and AI Mandy voiced from off-stage. A witty comedy then, with potential to develop into something genuinely intriguing if it wishes to push those ethical questions.

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