[VFF2019] Battery Operated Boyfriend, An Analysis & Review

24 Aug

nullLocation:
Victoria Event Centre
1415 Broad Street.

Remaining Shows:
Aug 24 4:30 pm
Aug 28 7:45 pm
Aug 31 4:30 pm
Sep 01 5:00 pm

A lot of themes are explored in Giant Nerd Australia‘s Battery Operated Boyfriend, which is making its North American premiere at the 2019 Victoria Fringe Festival. Please check this performance group’s Facebook page for future dates. In what you’ll see is a very in-depth look at loneliness in the eyes of Samantha (Nicol Cabe), a scientist/computer programmer. She lost her beau many years ago and programmed a facsimile of him–an artificial intelligence (Steve Brady) aptly named B.O.B.–to cope. While android technology is unknown in this minimalist sci-fi world, I get the sense that technology is advanced enough to allow for space exploration. Also, smart homes are a lot more common. When part of Sam’s life involves monitoring activities from the safety of her apartment than to live life to the fullest that her boyfriend once did, she’s in a rut. When her “programs” in the cyberworld discover a threat to Earth and say she’s the only one who can save humanity, she’s not ready to play superhero just yet.

Much of this show is about her self doubt. Although she tries to put on a good public face, her home life is depressing. This story offers a lot to think about. It’s more about showing audiences how not to be held back by grief when she pours her soul out to B.O.B. She wants to forget, but the program sees something better for her. A lot of influence from the Wachowski’s The Matrix makes up the philosophy on how to better your life, and shape destiny for yourself. Influential moments from Star Trek: The Next Generation’s episode, “The Schizoid Man” is also very clear. Should we hide behind masks or can we allow the future to be shaped differently? I also think a bit of Red Dwarf’s more serious content is included. B.O.B. is like Rimmer with the sarcasm and narcissism removed. He’s created to give peace to the only surviving human stuck in the mining ship lost in space.

In wanting to be closer to Sam, this AI puts up with this woman. Sadly, he cannot go any further to console since he lacks a body. I suspect he knows more than he lets on and is in love.

The need for companionship is strong and Cabe sells the desire in her performance. She argues with B.O.B. regularly and you’d think they were a couple. In this case, I get the feeling this work is a smart revision on what defines morality from Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. That is, how do we recognize the difference of what defines a human consciousness (a soul, as Sam put it) versus that of a machine which is traditionally seen as soulless. A.I’s are built upon what if constructs and using logic to determine an outcome. To see where these two eventually meet face to face, and where Sam boldly goes, well, that’d be a spoiler.

I don’t think River Song from Doctor Who would approve if I wrote anything further.

4 Stars out of 5

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