Review- Franky- AFTEC

  7-3-17

By Nuria Palau

 

 

 

 

For years, AFTEC has done a splendid job in Hong Kong promoting theatre and involving the youth in it. This year as part of their program “From Page to Stage”, they bring Franky, a reinterpretation of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The company will present 29 performance to schools and two public shows, making theatre more accessible to Hong Kong middle and high school students.

 

This version of Frankenstein takes us into a not so distant future: 2020. On this re-imagination of the play, Victor Stone (Barry O’Rorke) and his wife Elizabeth (Candice Moore), lose their son, Francis (Thomas Lawson), in a car accident. Victor and his partner (Mike Brooks), who have been working on robotics and artificial intelligence their whole life, decide to bring him back through an android called Franky (Lawson). The expectations on Franky are exceeded and the intelligent robot updates BUDI (Naomi Lawrence), another Android on which his makers had been working on. At the same time, Elizabeth joins the anti-robots activist Robert Clerval (Michael Sharmon). When Franky and his human mother meet for the first time, things begin to get more complicated.  

 

 

The story flows naturally with an energetic dynamic and a steady pace; the argument is relevant to our daily lives and the way we use technology. However, the play deals with many different themes: we deal with immortality, together with the moral weight of intelligent machines and the reaches of technology. Furthermore, the text goes into rejecting what we don’t understand, together with environmental issues, as well as free will, consciousness, unconsciousness to ultimately machines replacing humans.  In the end, it feels like it is talking about everything and nothing at the same time.

 

 

 

 

The play shows great production values. For starters, the space on stage is distributed into a magnificent and modern set, designed by the experienced architects Edwin Chan and Dennis Lee. It serves as a modern living room, a lab and a tv set without the need of changes; additionally, director Vicky Ooi, uses the space diligently keeping the stage always alive.  Secondly, it counts with a sound, and light design that transport and wrap the audience in the scene, the way they use these elements contributes into the old formula of visual storytelling “showing, not saying” in scenes as important as the death of Francis. Furthermore, a play that deals with such modern issues modernises its format and aids itself with the high-quality video that works efficiently and enhances the pace of the story. Finally, the play has the beautiful detail of adding onto its cast two small robots, one of them designed by the children in Kwok Tak Sign Catholic Secondary School.

 

 

It seems that in all this splendid production, actors’ performances barely reached its maximum potential in what seems like an overlook of director Vicki Ooi. Overall, performers didn’t seem to be in sync with energy or tone. For instance, the firm performance of O’Rorke seemed over the top when placed next to more cartoonish Brooks or the weary delivery of Sharmon. The only character that managed to blend and unify the cast was Lawrence’s BUDI;  her whole body represented a robot, from physicality and tone to expression and intentions. Her development into a conscious android in the second act is congruent, and throughout the whole play, she has funny bits that engage the audience.

 

 

 

Overall, the show is enjoyable and entertaining. Its mixed media format and familiar story engage the audience from the beginning. The show raises important questions that should be asked to kids in secondary school (which is their target audience): How is modern technology chaining our lives? Is it improving? What are the consequences? Director Ooi doesn't give us straight answers; she understands these don’t come easy or in a black and white scale, that there are grey areas and conversations to be started, and she is making sure they are.


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Comments

  • Rosario Alva
    08 March 2017

    This review is certainly an invitation to go and see the play. It is also an invitation for students to turn narrative into drama, to put into practice creative and reflection skills.
    Congrats
  • RGT
    26 March 2017

    I went to see the play and it's worth.
    Meaningful two hours spent on thinking how A.I. can change the future.

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