It was with high expectations that we entered Smock Alley on Saturday for “How to Build Your First Robot”. Once we got over the excitement of Louis Lovett asking if he could sit beside us (Don’t lie, you would have fangirled too), we were ready for the show to begin. We were a bit disappointed when the robot turned out to be a person and not a puppet but it didn’t take us very long to get over that.
We very quickly realised that speaking was a thing that would not be happening in this show, instead it was preformed through mime and soundscapes which is something that never fails to amuse and impress us. However, we felt there were moments when it was very difficult to understand what exactly was going on. Sometimes it wasn’t until the moment had been repeated several times throughout the story that we discovered what it actually was (and then we laughed at ourselves about how obvious it was now that we knew).
One thing we particularly enjoyed was the way time passing was represented in the piece, rather than going for a flicking calendar or a clock whizzing forward or even the standard “SEVERAL YEARS IN THE FUTURE” They instead choose to show a projection where they moved though significant scientific events/inventions from the 1960’s until today. We thought this was a very clever idea that added nicely to the piece.
Without a doubt, the standout part of the show would have to have been Keith-James Walker who played the robot. Not once did we see him as much as blink when he was on stage. His concentration was incredible. Even though his face was expressionless for the entire show we could still see exactly how he felt through the slight changes in his robotic movements. His excitement, agitation and loneliness were all conveyed perfectly through his expressionless face and eyes.
Despite enjoying the piece the ending left us dissatisfied. We felt the man had done nothing to deserve the unconditional friendship the robot gave him. It felt unfair, he choose the woman over his best friend, he just left the robot in the basement to gather dust for 50 years and then when he needed a friend again he just switched him back on as if everything was still the same. It was very hard to believe that after his years of loneliness and being left for years in the dark that the robot would welcome the man with open arms. It felt wrong.