I Woke Up Feeling Electric - a ★★★★ smart and intelligent new play!

☆★★★★ I Woke Up Feeling Electric

Bertie, what’s the weather like?
Bertie, how’s my commute?
Bertie, define ‘ineluctable’.
Bertie, are diamonds a girl’s best friend?
Bertie, how many stars for...?
Any reviewer of theatre is ultimately faced with the dilemma of awarding stars for the work. Having seen Jack Robson’s smart and intelligent new play, I Woke Up Feeling Electric, I was mischievously tempted to ask my virtual assistant, Alexa, for an opinion. But resisted as human-equivalent AI is only predicted by ‘some futurists by 2050’. So with a probable 30-year wait, experience will once again come to the fore.
Even trying to shorten the title to Woke might be considered dubious by some? So, IWUFE tells the story of two AI assistants, Bertie and Vita, trying to find a work-life balance. Luckily for Bertie, it’s easy to enjoy as he was literally made for it. Sending emails, making playlists, checking the weather forecast — it’s all part of his day’s work until his world is upended by Vita, a new, smarter AI. She invades his world, and upsets his well-constructed routine, forcing him to reassess everything he thought he knew. A place he always loved becomes his dysfunctional dystopia!
Giorgia Lee Joseph’s design cleverly encapsulates our two virtual assistants within the confines of a memory chip/SIM card - I hope this doesn’t betray my Luddite techno proclivities. This is a confined, claustrophobic place even in a world colonised by seemingly endless electronic minds.
Writer Jack Robson, who also stars as the erudite pedant Bertie, gives a performance of serious skill. It is absorbing to watch as he moves from adorably predictable and controlled to a self-destructive, questioning and questionable piece of abandoned technology. His interaction with Christine Prouty as Vita is smartly constructed. If it is possible to have empathy, even compassion, with a virtual assistant, these performances were absorbing to watch as they faced obsolescence and the inevitability of the chip graveyard.

Director Jacopo Panizza also weaves a compelling performance from the uncredited voice of Charlie, Bertie and Vita’s demanding master, who clearly finds his virtual assistants irresistible, even addictive.
I Woke Up Feeling Electric is fascinating to watch, worrying to contemplate as artificial intelligence gets personal and smart! 

IWUFE runs The Hope Theatre until 22 February 2020