Review: My Robot by Barking Gecko Theatre ◆
Studio Underground, 10 November ◆
Reviewed by Ellen-Hope Thomson ◆
Entering the theatre on opening night I am happy to see so many children in the audience. The boys behind me jump up and down as their mother explains they’ve just purchased sugary drinks with their own money. I ask them if they’re excited to see the show and get a quick response- they’re excited to see the robot.
As the lights dim the boys behind me settle and lean forward. A solitary cardboard box shuffles through the darkness. Popping out a hole just big enough for her face, we are introduced to Ophelia – (the wondrous Arielle Gray). Her childlike eyes catching the light, Ophelia’s box begins to spin and the story of her displacement begins to unfold. Ophelia’s family has moved from snow covered mountains to the seaside, leaving behind best friends and familiarity.
My Robot is a universal tale about disconnection and creating new beginnings in strange places. The elegant simplicity of Finegan Kruckemeyer’s writing engages from the start and certain one liners dig deep into the special part of your heart reserved for childhood memory. This intimate beginning quickly gives way however to a play bustling with energy. This is children’s theatre at its best – sentimental yet engaging and whimsical.
We don’t have to wait long to meet the joyful heart of the show – Olivetti. One part typewriter, one part alarm clock heart, the robot is completely enchanting. In one scene Olivetti unpacks the boxes in Ophelia’s bedroom in a sequence akin to a magic show. Items disappear and reappear, sucked up by its appendages. Later on, secret storage compartments are revealed in Olivetti’s trunk and silly string launches from cheese grater arms. Needless to say this robot is the stuff of childhood’s most vivid imaginings. Perfectly voiced by Sarah Nelson, this gorgeous machine is the creation of robot designer Steve Berrick. No surprise that post-show chatter revolved around how certain technical elements came together!
A special highlight was St John Cowcher’s portrayal of four different characters. Watching him flit from laid back surfer dad to the purple-clad, villainous Ms Ogilvie was a delight and added needed pace to the show.
Partly a testament to the power of creativity, partly a simple story of the pain of relocation, My Robot will resonate with anyone who has needed to re-adapt to new surrounds. This is a play that tells kids they are perfect just the way they are and reminds adults that they haven’t lost that part of themselves. I guess sometimes it takes a robot to really understand the best parts of being human.
Photo: Jon Green