In the wake of news stories about a sex robot programmed with a "Frigid Farrah" personality setting, Malaprop’s award-winning two-hander Love+ feels more relevant than ever. Tussling with the moral, ethical and psychological implications of a relationship between a human and a purchased robot that is programmed to please, the play approaches its subject in an open-handed, non-judgmental way.
The "Bot", played convincingly by Breffni Holahan, lives by the refrain “if you’re OK then everything is OK”. At a stage of development not fully, naturalistically human she makes socially inept attempts at gratification. Repeating a joke exactly because it was laughed at the first time, she gets into tricky territory when the woman she lives with, played by Catherine Russell, points out that being called a “beautiful beach babe” contradicts the Bot’s mandate not to tell a lie.
It is clever, amusing interactions like this—along with a discussion of why Pinocchio wants to be a “real boy”, or the “gratitude stress” that comes with being told by a robot that thanks are unnecessary—that make this show engaging. However, truly knotty issues—like how a subservient machine can give sexual consent—are only lightly analysed, or done so largely in terms of the emotional need of the human to not feel exploitative, to feel wanted.
Breaks from the central story include a hilariously lewd chat with a sex bot on sensationbot.com, and a well-illustrated discussion of how the development of robots relies more on an understanding of humans than it does on technology. The overall impression of the show is, then, an impressively varied—if at times cursory—exploration of an issue that feels somehow both immediate and futuristic.
Summerhall, 7:10pm – 8:10pm, 13, 15, 17, 22, 24 Aug, £9 – £11