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Theatre Review: Interference ***

Michael Cox reviews a production that looks good but 'lacks a human touch'.

If science fiction is about anything, it is about ideas and questions: ideas about the future, and questions of how problems and mistakes in our present might result in consequences for future generations.

And there is no denying that Interference has many ideas and questions. A collection of three short plays, the production looks at a future society where a company is able to control the lives of people. They do this in the guise of freedom, promising to give a more fulfilling life that meets the needs of each individual. It doesn’t pan out that way for any of the characters.

The first, Darklands, is the most successful. Written by Morna Pearson, the play follows Brie and Logan, a couple who have their basic needs monitored by the company. AI voice Moira tells each of them how their work is progressing and how to better take care of themselves. She also asks personal questions and gives advice. But to what end?

Hannah Khalil’s Metaverse is the second play. In it, a woman has been hired to perfect virtual reality technology. Her saving grace in all the stress is keeping in touch with her daughter through a recreational VR system she has limited access to. But is it really her daughter she’s communicating with? And what about the mysterious woman who always has the session after hers?

The final piece, Vlad Butucea’s Glowstick, is a more intimate play between an older woman and a caregiving android. The android wants to serve, but the woman wants to live. Will they be able to reach a compromise?

Cora Bissett’s production of all three plays, performed in the offices at City Park, is indeed impressive. It looks slick, uses technology well and is evenly-paced—particularly for a show with a 150-minute running time.

Bissett’s greatest asset is in the four great performances she gets from her cast. Maureen Beattie is the sole actor in all three pieces, giving voice to Moira in the first, playing the mother in the second and the woman in the third. All three characters are different yet equally engaging. Moyo Akande is also very good as both the mysterious woman in Metaverse and the android in Glowstick. But far more impressive are Shyvonne Ahmmad (making her professional debut) and Nicholas Ralph as Brie and Logan in Darklands. Their journey and anguish within the play is riveting stuff, and it achieves to be something that just isn’t found within the other two pieces: it manages to be humane.

Which, perhaps, is the biggest flaw with Interference. For all of its ideas, it feels like it lacks a human touch, trading emotion for concepts and tech. Moments that should create empathy lack punch, and character is sometimes given less clout than plot—even if many of the twists can be seen a mile off. Because of this, it feels like a better word to describe the production isn’t ‘interference’ but instead ‘indifference’.

Run ended.

Tags: theatre

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