4/5 Stars

★★★★ Ethics, Heartbreak and Happiness

Abigail Bryant reviews AI Love You at Theatre N16

In Theatre N16, above the balmy jostle of The Bedford, profound decisions are being made. Adam and April introduce themselves, a young couple living in Putney, regular jobs, regular interests, and an endearing coyness when faced with the gazing eyes of an audience. However, their situation is far from regular, and their fate lies in the hands of a room full of strangers, us, the ‘Ethical Steering Committee’. We are forced to navigate a tough moral compass, and witness the implications of ethical decision-making that’s more significant now than ever.

Initially framed as having an untimely terminal illness, April pleads for the right to end her life before her suffering becomes too much for both her and her loved one to bear. Although not unexpected, the revelation of her non-human form throws a dramatic and thought-provoking angle over the proceedings, and it ascends into a challenging, emotional, and fundamentally human piece of art. Heart to Heart Theatre have created an interactive narrative which relies on audience participation to determine an unconventional but wholly relatable couple’s future, but plot twists are intelligently woven into the drama as it unfolds and surprises are aplenty.

Although frequently explored through science-fiction, approaching the complexity of ethical artificial intelligence on such a provocative, personal and intense scale is no mean feat, and AI Love You has many components which contribute to its success. Firstly, Melanie Anne Ball’s writing is slick, believable and digestibly intelligent. The script poses philosophical questions subtly, rather than shoehorning in textbook examples of what does or doesn’t makes us human.

Perfectly dishevelled and with kind but determined eyes, Eve Ponsonby embodies April with startling consistency. It’s difficult not to be captivated by her complex character, and empathise with her complex ideologies and needs, ‘still a woman too’, after all. Peter Dewhurst is equally as impressive, smitten with April and admirably desperate to save her life, albeit with arguably selfish intent. In a particularly poignant scene, he reveals a box of romantic items which simultaneously reveal intimate memories, fluidly played out on stage, which adds further complexity to not only the impending decision, but the implications of what that decision means.

AI Love You delivers quality entertainment which is full of believable sentiment and dramatic quality. Unlike a conventional sci-fi theatre piece which explores technology and it’s place in our lives, it puts the audience at the heart of the narrative and provokes important reflection which resides far beyond the walls of Theatre N16. This is proof of a human and heart wrenching production, so catch it while you can and accompany April and Adam on a journey which is both theirs and yours.

Abigail Bryant

AI Love You is playing at Theatre N16 until the 24th June.

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