The Test – White Bear Theatre until 30th September
♦♦♦ Thought-provoking, clever and extremely relevant
Review by Lucrezia Pollice
The Test – Audiences enter the space to find a research scientist dressed in a star-wars t-shirt, sitting at a desk. Her name is Dora. Ian Dixon Potter’s play takes artificial intelligence to another level – it is not intelligence Dora is looking for, its actual consciousness.
Dora is a research scientist, speaking often in acronyms and is passionate about progress. She dreams to create the first artificial consciousness and believes to have the right ingredients for this to be achieved. To do this she intends to apply the Turing Test, examining if a machine can exhibit the same behavior of a human, to find out if this is actually possible. Her Test will have the possibility to make history. Professor, played by Zara Banks, is not so sure about this test. She is scared this revolutionary idea might cause more harm than good and will not contribute to Dora’s research.
Is the prize worth the risk?
In her mind, Dora believes so – progress is the only thing she feels is important. But will this be the same for the rest of humanity? Will her idea to test artificial consciousness be successful, and if so how will it change the world?
Dora cannot do this test on her own. For the test to be successful she will need the expert hands of a hacker, interpreted by Duncan Mason, who will allow her to have complete access of the internet. She contacts an ex–convict/hacker to help her out and together they attempt to make history.
The artificial consciousness is going to be called MOTHER and will have a mind of her own. Having access of all the internet and the cloud, she has the ability to quickly analyze human behavior – providing audiences with an interesting introspection as to what human beings have become in the 21st century. Some might say MOTHER is slightly negative, or others might call realistic. She sees the world objectively with all its corruption, anger and inequalities overriding the positive acts made daily by human beings.
However, what they do not know is that MOTHER will be one step ahead of them and might be scarier than they thought. What would you think if you had the ability to observe the world and make judgement of it in a completely objective manner? Would you not want to put order to the chaos and stop all famine and destruction? If the richest people in the world can be counted on two hands, then who would be really missing out if there was a slight reshuffle of power and everyone became really equal?
This play is extremely relevant and mind-opening, which is why I believe more people should see it. Current topics as terrorism, evolution and all the peculiarities of human behavior are raised. The Test builds up questions – provides little answers but definitely makes one think. Is our freedom really ours? Are we really in charge of our destiny?
Although this interesting alien analysis of today’s world provides a useful introspection to the purpose of human behavior, it also becomes slightly tedious. The bare stage and minimalist set, with a projection screen as center stage and two desks on either side, adds to the cold scientific atmosphere. This scientific atmosphere is useful to set the scene but is also unfortunately present in the text as it slightly lacks the character’s inner conflict and trauma, as well as a strong storytelling arch. The characters are two-dimensional and slightly stereotypical.
It felt like a ping-pong ball was being thrown from one end to the other of the stage, I was watching, turning my head from side to side not knowing who to believe. Arguments were based on concrete facts and even the grey areas, which are often left undiscussed, were brought to the surface. Contradictions are definitely Ian Dixon Potter’s forte and the debates raised are meaningful and necessary.