Artificial Intelligence is having a moment. From ChatGPT and now a Google rival, ‘Bard’, to journalists calmly asking robots with near-human faces if they’re planning a rebellion against us, Andrew Stein’s cautionary tale about AI feels perfectly timed.
The stage is set for a reunion dinner. Tech entrepreneur Nick is in town, buoyant from his latest business sale and has arranged to meet up with some old friends; three thirty-something couples who are grappling with the kind of first world problems that plague the middle classes like private school fees, whether to buy a bigger house, which exotic destination would be preferable for a holiday and so on. Enter Nick’s mysterious (unblinking) partner, Raven – together, they have a proposition that could solve all of Nick’s friends’ problems and make them filthy rich in the process.
Of course, nothing is quite that simple. Nick’s new business venture, an algorithm smarter than any human brain that can help users make better life choices, is clearly too sinister to make for too many cheerful outcomes. “Do you want an accurate weather report, or to make the weather?” asks Raven, foretelling the storm that is coming their way, both literally and figuratively. Also, for all their MCPs (Middle Class Problems) this is a friendship group with plenty of hidden depths and dark secrets ripe for spilling in their quest for betterment.
While the premise isn’t unique, the characters are rounded and superbly acted – caricatured enough to paint a quick picture but developed with their own individual subplots to give them depth. Ultimately this play is as much about relationships and people as it is about a creepy computer programme. What motivates and drives us, what unites and divides us are all tackled, with each character given a decent share of the action. This is an experienced cast with some impressive credits between them and a genuinely strong ensemble. It’s seldom that you see such a production with no standout leads but this is a feast of talent with each bringing something extra to an already strong script. The dialogue is natural – the friendly banter feels like it comes easily but then so do the harsh words, the cutting put downs and the heartbreak. There’s a lot of feeling packed into two hours of play without it ever feeling over the top or overwhelming. The staging is also incredibly effective, especially for a fairly intimate space. Set and Costume Designer Zoë Hurwitz and Lighting Designer Robbie Butler have created something subtle but clever that acts as a constant reminder of what is unfolding but is also versatile enough to transport us from an intimate night in, to a blustering rainstorm with minimal fuss.
Overall Disruption has all the qualities of a good night of theatre. It runs until Saturday 5th August so you’ve plenty of time to grab a ticket, and if you’re still reading this then the algorithm suggests you’ll probably enjoy it… https://parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/disruption
Reviewer: Zoё Meeres
Reviewed: 13th July 2023
North West End UK Rating: