Interference is a three-part ponder on the role and reliability of AI. The existence of Black Mirror and the pretenders to its perfectly crafted throne may make this seem obsolete, but there is something refreshing about seeing the beeps and blips of cleverly created technological interaction IRL. Three different writers have provided the three different scripts in response to the same brief. All the pieces are directed by Cora Bissett, providing a sense of continuity as the cast slip seamlessly between different roles. The show takes place at Park City, well away from the proscenium or studio theatre in a grey and generic office building where a disembodied voice invites us to move towards a small stage. It’s setting apt for the colour palette and content of the pieces as well as opening theatre up to new spaces.
Darklands writer Morna Pearson presents us with a familiar tale of the struggle to conceive but the technological twist that pits a married couple working for ‘The Company’ against one another. The ‘company’ employs you and helps with your health care. It also invades the most basic privacy you could think of but hey! Free health care. And toffees. The impact of struggles to conceive for would-be parents and concerns about ‘interfering with nature’ are central here but the piece retains it’s humour within the darkness. Both Nicholas Ralph and Shyvonne Ahmed working within a sparse set to convincingly create a relationship without actually seeing each other.
We are shuffled to a new set where Maureen Beattie is working hard on new communications technology in Metaverse, by Hannah Khalil. Human contact, the very basic interaction of touch, is missing from a relationship between mother and daughter. A clever use of projection and precise physicality takes us to a lab within a complex that’s near a border where humans and robots live in uneasy company working on things that will make stuff better. The slightly imprecise location is underlines the message of trust and mistrust of machine intelligence is clear. Excellent performances solidify a well-written script that doesn’t quite dodge some of the more familiar dystopian sci-fi tropes of the threat of AI and how humans can wield it, or fall under it.
The final piece of the trilogy is Glowstick by Vlad Butucea. Here, River, played by Maureen Beattie is interacting with her A.I carer Ida played fluidly and lightly by Moyo Akandé. Ida is also comedic, but why wouldn’t she be, she believes River just needs to stay alive to be ok. The lyricism of Butucea’s writing elevates their interactions and piece to poetic exploration of what it means to be alive. The world appears to have ended in some way but it’s illustrated by electric eels falling from the sky rather than futuristic technology and an unknown threat. It’s a sumptuous finish.
AI is not yet capable of self-improvement, but just a couple of hundred iterations can take place in minutes and your friendly helper becomes a dangerous nemesis. For now though we use it. For war, for care, for business…For power and the ability to bend the world as we see fit and even to create new worlds. In Interference, the ideas of those worlds are presented smartly and with emotion.
Photo courtesy of Eoin Carey.
Interference runs at City Park, Glasgow until 31st March 2019.