How To Build Your First Robot: A Review By Sophie Cassidy and Jack Rogers

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.

Tribal Voices: spoken word and filming with Calipo

Tribal Voices

You may be sitting there, wondering exactly what ‘spoken word’ is. And for those of you who don’t know, spoken word is performance based poetry/rap focused on world play and storytelling – something which I investigated last week. So what, I hear you cry, spoken word is just talking and sure everybody can do that? But as I learned, it is so much more than people make it out to be….

You’re probably asking why I’m blabbering on about all this spoken word poetry and other gibberish? Well, it started a few weeks ago when Calipo Picture Company contacted me about their new project. In case you’re not familiar with them, Calipo are one of the most successful and high profile theatre and film companies in Ireland and have been based in our very own humble Drogheda for the past twenty years. They’ve produced a number of plays that have ranged from Tarantino to Shakespeare, critically acclaimed short films, their own RTE TV drama called Love is The Drug and have even worked with some of Ireland’s top acting talents. Pretty cool, right? So when I received their call about working on their next project -called Tribal Voices- I felt  a combination of nerves and excitement, as you can imagine.

Soon it was Monday morning and there I was in Barlow House with director Darren Thornton, production manager Geraldine White and the other ten teenagers attached to the project, most of whom were strangers to me.  However, it wasn’t long before we all started to get to know each other and we engaged in a number of team-building exercises and improvs, which I really enjoyed. One particular exercise was to draw a map of the town of Drogheda (which, in my opinion, looked like a cross between havoc and a giant shanty town) and another was a show-and-tell exercise where we each talked about symbols that represented our own individual cultures. As a lot of the other teenagers came from different cultural backgrounds, it was a great learning experience and made me more aware of the traditions and conventions of other cultures. We discussed our beliefs, ways of life, views, what we tolerated (and what we didn’t) and most importantly, what we aimed to write about in our spoken word pieces or manifestos and what message we wanted to convey to the world.

With this in mind, we set off writing our own pieces, which was daunting and difficult for everyone at first as none of us were familiar with writing poetry or rap and it all seemed a little bit scary. However, our fears did not last long, as towards the middle of week, we began working with TEMPER-MENTAL Miss Elayneous (not her real name) a rap artist from Dublin, who helped us shape and carve our performances pieces and was encouraging and optimistic about our work from the very beginning. Meeting Elaine (her real name) was a sheet pleasure and she really gave me that boost and confidence I needed to put pen to paper and let my imagination flow.

With some more rehearsing, fun and games and final touches to the script, we were all ready to go! It was Friday already and we were all on location early at Drogheda Grammar School, dressed in our own school uniforms and all prepared to film our recited pieces, in front of Calipo’s professional camera crew. It was a bit like The Breakfast Club 2.0 except with no Simple Minds playing in the background and we weren’t all in detention. It was a long day -to say the least- but utterly enjoyable. The whole week was a changing experience for me and made me realise that drama and film is something that I would like to pursue as a career. I loved every moment of  working with these inspirational, dedicated and outgoing people, who I can proudly say are my life long friends and who I hope that I can work with again.

Above all, it made me realise that you don’t need fancy or elaborate words to write poetry or be a hardcore R&B lover to write a rap song. All you need is confidence  – because sometimes the simplest words are the most powerful.c