Reviews & Feedback
2010 – True Logic of the Future
Australian Stage Online
by Trevar Alan Chilver
15 July 2010
Nothing pleases me more than to have my ideas of what constitutes good theatre challenged, and the talented and immensely clever cast and crew of True Logic of the Future have done just that. This is a creative and intricately constructed performance that presents many challenges for the reviewer, not least of which is the question of whether it should be reviewed at all.
Beginning with a number of encouragements for audients to interact with the set, and the actors, and especially to ‘follow the onscreen instructions’, the audience enters the performance space through a long corridor, and finds their places in seats or on cushions on the floor. Encouraged by the screen to find props and interact with them, the audience is prepared for the interaction that will be required of them throughout the performance. They find, before too long, that they’re witnessing a computer simulation, and just like any other computer, it is subject to the odd conniption that can be remedied by giving it a good jolt, such as can be affected by stomping on the floor. They find, also, that the show simply can’t go on without them. A truth in all theatre, but especially so in this.
The narrative of True Logic of the Future is, perhaps, a little thin. Its characters are likewise shallow, and lack the kind of depth I would normally insist is compulsory in a drama. In this context, however, far from being a detractor, it’s a major strength. The work is driven by the ideas of William Stanley Jevons, a nineteenth century philosopher whose work had substantial impact across a number of fields. While this is a potentially didactic and dry theme for a play, it is nonetheless a fascinating experiment when it is turned on its head to be about the audients’ capacity for rationality. And so rather than emotive elements like character and plot providing the work’s movement, this is provided by the audience’s interaction. The play insists that the audience, wherever they’ve come from, is capable not only of understanding Jevons’ ideas, but of constructing them. A far more interesting proposition than the story of a dead man’s life.
And far more interesting than the portrayal of dead man, the three onstage writer/performers; David Finnigan, Jack Lloyd and Cathy Petocz are simply remarkable. With a script that can change direction at a moment’s notice, depending on audience interaction, and clearly defined objectives, their professionalism is of the highest standard. They are likewise supported by musician Michael Bailey, without whose sense of the moment their performances would fall flat.
Some might argue that True Logic of the Future, as a production developed in conjunction with a museum, isn’t really theatre; but I think it rather challenges us to define what theatre really is. At the end of the day (or the performance), what really matters is the nature of the experience and how, as a member of an audience, you’ve related to it. True Logic of the Future takes ideas that are philosophically dense, and not only presents them in a narrative that’s easy to relate to, but also provides engaging experiences that illustrate their point. While this may not suit fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber, it is nonetheless the heart of theatre; it’s what keeps theatre alive.
As theatrical experiences go, this is among the most enjoyable I have ever had. The way in which the performers draw the audience into participation so effortlessly ignited a sense of playfulness and wonder most commonly associated with childhood, and while other experiences may impress with language, skill and profundity (as this one does), I simply found myself incredibly grateful for the awakening of my sense of wonder.
The Canberra Times
by Cris Kennedy
16 July 2010
THE DRAMA OF LIFE’S SOCIAL CHALLENGES
Locally-based video artist Jack Lloyd, musician Michael Bailey and writer David Finnigan work together as a collective, calling themselves Boho Interactive, and explore science through performance. Their 2007 work A Prisoner’s Dilemma looked at the science of game theory, while their 2009 installation Food for the Great Hungers was informed by complex systems science as it re-imagined 20th-century Australian history.
Their new show, True Logic of the Future, is the result of a residence at Belconnen Arts Centre and a partnership with the Powerhouse Museum. The Powerhouse has contributed a reproduction of the Logic Piano, something of a Jules Verne-era computer, designed and built by the great 19th-century thinker William Stanley Jevons, and through the narrative the Boho Team explore the life and scientific and economic theories of Jevons.
Before I enter the performance space, purpose-built in austere timber and calico by show designer Gillian Schwab, the usher warns of the interactive nature of the show, but reassures audiences participation isn’t mandatory. The set is a Victorian-era drawing room, complete with performer David Finnigan silently encouraging the crowd to search among the set to uncover key props whose relevance will become apparent during the show.
Finnigan is joined on stage by Cathy Petocz and Jack Lloyd, playing, respectively, journalist Jen Howe and statistician Alex Moore. The three characters come to realise they are avatars working within a computer environment, in reality the scanned consciousnesses of real citizens at some point in our not-to-distant future, and their role is to help calibrate the computer’s settings of a new Big Brother entity who will control government decision- making.
All of the backstory to Boho’s research for this show the work of Jevons, the plausibility of their future scenario constructs, the wonderful period reproductions by the Powerhouse gives you a richer experience as a viewer (or, if you get involved with the interactives, a participant). But you don’t really need to know any of this going in: the team don’t wear their intellectualism on their sleeves. Instead, under director Barb Barnett, they have simply produced a fine piece of drama that explores some of our bigger challenges as a society the loss of anonymity, of power, and control of our environment.
The actors are terrific, there are some nice little conceits possible in a sci-fi show, like the characters playing against their own inner monologues, and Michael Bailey sits obscured among the audience, pressing the buttons and pulling the switches like a soulful trombone-playing Wizard of Oz.
True Logic of the Future plays nightly until Saturday at 8pm and on Sunday, July 18 at 6pm Belconnen Arts Centre. Tickets $25/$18.
by Peter Wilkins
9 August 2010
How to unravel the riddle? That is the puzzle. What has brought an assayer, a data processor and a journalist together in a 19th century study? Why are they obviously modern day characters and yet are dressed in Victorian clothes? Why do they appear disoriented, confused, scrambled and bewildered by recurrent loops in their dialogue, interfacing with voice overs of their real persona’s existing in an outside world? Trapped within the virtual reality of a computer construct, the mystery slowly unravels, revealing the reason for their existence, their relationship to each other and their mission to serve a robot government in order to solve the major social, political and economic problems of their world at a time in the not too distant future.
Stoppard meets Beckett in an Orwellian world in Boho Interactive’s science fiction thriller, True Logic of the Future. Canberra’s science theatre collective has already established an enviable reputation for incisive, conceptual exploration of scientific and technological experimentation in previous productions, such as the highly acclaimed A Prisoner’s Dilemma, based on Game Theory probability; and Food for Hunger, which examined the notion of historical consequence, performed as an interactive journey through the Canberra home of late historian, Manning Clark.
True Logic of the Future, although appearing complex in its dramatic structure, is deceptively simple and strikingly relevant. Society faces a complex, scrambled and incoherent network of natural, humanitarian and political problems. What logical paradigm needs to be employed to construct rational and affirmative solutions?
True Logic of the Future seeks to offer no didactically driven solutions. But it does strive to empower the audience through interactive participation or intellectual confrontation to construct informed answers to the essential premise. How can we solve this problem?
Which brings us to the fourth character in this tantalizingly thought-provoking production. His name is never mentioned. He never appears. And yet the life and work of William Stanley Jevons, assayer at the Sydney Mint from 1855-1859; inaugural professor of economics at University College, London; inventor of the Logic Piano, a prototype of the modern computer; inventor of the Cloud Chamber; musician; philosopher; 3D photographer and meteorologist, inspires every facet of Boho Interactive’s production. As the audience enters the space, they are invited to explore the artifacts from Jevons’s time and interact with Gillian Schwab’s faithful design and authentic objects on loan from the Powerhouse Museum.
Jevons’s ideals are embedded in the need to be flexible, open and logical. Finningan’s script slowly reveals the inherent logic of the principles of Jevons’s teaching, while leaving the audience in a state of unresolved awareness. This is punctuated by the long uncertain silence at the end of the show, following Sands’s expounding of Jevons’s principles, before following Alex Moore (Jack Lloyd) and Jen Howell (Cathy Petocz) into their real universe.
Director, Barb Barnett skilfully avoids the risk of confusion, maintaining a tightly directed unfolding of the story with assured performances from Lloyd, Petocz and Finnigan. As a result of their locked existence in virtual reality, subject to the control of an authoritative power beyond the computer construct, Lloyd and Petocz’s characters appear functional and automated, controlled by a nineteenth century formality and an unrevealed agent.
Throughout the performance, the action is interspersed with digital on-screen instructions, operated by Michael Bailey who also provides a sonorous trombone accompaniment to the characters’ search for reason in an apparently illogical environment. At intervals, the audience is asked to break the incoherent loops of simultaneous or overlapping dialogue by stamping their feet; determining a sequence of scenes; or plunging into chaos as they urgently attempt to keep an increasing number of balloons afloat while Sands exhorts them to imagine they are a government, charged to solve problems such as the refugee crisis, the erosion of the soil, tidal surges that destroy coastal communities, the creation of social problems leading to the employment of martial law, which in turn leads to the destruction of social order and the emergence of uncontrollable anarchy. The dialogue is barely comprehensible and any hope of solution discarded as the audience frantically strives to keep the balloons afloat, until Sands’ final instruction: “Let Go”.
Boho Interactive’s theatre challenges and provokes. It demands rational explanation of irrational logic, and compels audiences to understand responsible commitment to direct action. Theatrically, True Logic of the Future is compelling, confronting and intellectually challenging in its relentless analysis of human complexity. It is a theatre of ideas, intriguing in its construct, imaginative in its staging, and prophetic in its pronouncement of the global and national issues that will determine the future prosperity and security of the nation.
by Michael Sollis
15 July 2010
Last night I was fortunate enough to see Boho Interactive’s production True Logic Of The Future at Belconnen Arts Centre.
The show was inspiring. It transformed neoclassical economic theory into a dramatic 1 act interactive performance piece in a quasi-sci-fi setting. Back in my first year of economics I was lucky enough to have a man called Paul Chen as a lecturer who was famous for jumping around the lecture theatre in explaining basic economic concepts in an amazingly physical way – he was one of those ‘unique’ teachers whom every student remembers and was inspired by – but Paul Chen has nothing compared to Boho Interactive in explaining economic thought in a creative yet meaningful manner.
The show was loosely based around the theory of 19th century economist William Stanley Jevon’s whose work is often categorised with a group of economists who became known as the Neoclassical school, for which contemporary microeconomic theory is currently based upon. One of the basic tenants of neoclassical economics is that each individual makes decisions in order to maximise his or her utility (i.e. happiness). In a market system, demand, supply, prices, profit, production, etc. etc. are derived from this utility (or marginal utility to be more exact – how much happier would one additional piece of pie actually make you?).
True Logic asked the question: What if we could give the power to maximise our utility to an artificial intelligence, and When/Why would we choose to do this? It explored various human responses to this question in an entertaining, personable fashion. In between all of this, the ‘artificial intelligence’ was essentially giving the audience a lecture in neoclassical economic theory (although it was presented more like an Issac Asimov story at the time). From what I remember, there are several centres around the world where computers do attempt to ‘measure’ human utility from people’s responses and brain patterns, which raises some interesting questions…
What I enjoyed most about True Logic was that economic theory could be applied artistically. Only that morning, I made the remark to a friend of mine as to whether economist John Nash’s Prisoner’s Dilemma, or a ‘Tragedy of the Commons‘, could be interpreted musically. I have known composers who have done this before, but the result has been more interesting from the performers perspective, rather than from an audience’s perspective (see Cornelius Cardew ‘commie’ music). What I loved about True Logic is it was able to convert these theoretical constructs into a meaningful artistic creation which was not self-indulgent, but incredibly stimulating to watch and feel a part of.
by Tom Worthington
19 July 2010
Last night I attended preview of the play “True Logic of the Future” by Boho at the Belconnen Arts Centre, in Canberra. This combined live performance, video and audience participation for an entertaining and thought provoking evening. The pay opens 21 August, during the Ultimo Science festival at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.
The play is set in a post-apocalyptic near future, where climate change has overwhelmed democratic government and computer logic is used to make hard decisions as to who will live and die. The set looks like a Victorian era drawing room, apparently in reference to William Stanley Jevons, Victorian era economist and logician. The three actors, Cathy Petocz, Jack Lloyd and David Finnigan are dressed in Victorian era costume and they (and we the audience) are invited to work out what is going on. But this seems really to be an excuse for using a steam-punk aesthetic. The characters, while in Victorian era consume, use devices such as a 1880 style WiFi plate camera and a computer console in the style of pipe organ, which is inspired by Jevons’ ‘Logic Piano’ paleo-computer.
The play seems prescient, with its themes of desperate political expedients to address climate change, given the the Australian prime minister was deposed suddenly a few weeks ago for failing to address climate change.
Performances were flawless, despite the difficulty of working in an interactive environment which tended to distract from the actors. The use of video, including real time images from a WiFi camera disguised as an old plate camera was clever. The use of video reminded me of Peter Greenaway’s “Prospero’s Books”. The play also has echos of Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia. That play also features issues of technology, mathematics and a fluid use of time. Perhaps the producer should consider a video game version of the work.
The location of the play made it more poignant, being a few hundred metres from some of the government institutions mentioned. Many of the audience seemed to be from government and were able to identify with the play (I overheard a discussion advocating the centralisation of Government IT in the foyer before the performance which might have been part of the script).
But the themes of authoritarian versus humanistic government in the face of a failure to address climate change, would seem to be likely to be just as relevant in NSW when the play opens during the Ultimo Science festival at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.
ps: In the past I have found that with such plays, life starts to imitate art. In 1994 I attended Arcadia in Sydney. A few days later I was visiting Oxford and caught up in the architecture and academic environment described in the play.
In 1996 I attended Bertolt Brecht.’s “The Life of Galileo” at the Sydney Opera House. The set had a Apple Mac laptop on Galileo’s desk, drawing parallels between censorship of Galileo’s work and modern Internet censorship. Around the same time I appeared before Senate inquires into Internet censorship, where the IT profession was essentially assumed to be guilty until proven innocent.
Words by Ross
by Ross Hamilton
13 July 2010
Boho present an interactive steampunk style science-fiction theatre work based on the 19th century economist, meteorologist, logician, musician, programmer, 3D photographer, philosopher and cloud-maker, William Stanley Jevons.
The above is a quote from the advertising for True Logic of the Future by the Boho Interactive performance group. I was quite puzzled about what to expect. Seeing as I work in the centre where the play is being performed, I had an early sneak peak at the set which was enough to convince me this was going to be something different.
Things start out differently from the moment you walk through the door of the ‘theatre’ (actually it’s a dance studio that sometimes doubles as a performance venue). The bulk of the area is closed off by a wall and you have to walk around the outside of it in growing darkness until finding a doorway that lets you into the performance area. You then actually walk through the performance set to get to your seating.
The first impression is of a nineteenth century setting, yet the electronic music playing unobtrusively and a crackling, distorted voice-over, gives a steampunk feel to things. From here I have to be careful what I say lest I be guilty of spoilers.
Despite the nineteenth century appearance and dress, it soon becomes apparent that the play is actually dealing with a near-future scenario. Even my nemesis, my former employer, the Awful Bloody Shithole – sorry, I mean the Australian Bureau of Statistics – gets a mention. The consequences that the characters are dealing with are decidedly dire.
The audience becomes part of the performance, being a truly interactive experience. A lot of work has been put into developing this very interesting, thought provoking and well presented performance – definitely worth checking out either at its season at the Belconnen Arts Centre that finishes on July 18, or next month at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.
2007-8 – A Prisoner’s Dilemma
‘A lively and original piece of interactive theatre… The two primary performers are both able and engaging, the interactivity does not drag hapless audience members on stage and the production’s content is both intelligent and diverting. 4 stars.’
Samela Harris, The Adelaide Advertiser, Mar 2007
‘one of the most intense moments I have ever seen in theatre as David Finnigan and Jack Lloyd forced the audience to pick for them a life of slavery or death.’
Naomi Milthorpe, BMA Magazine (Canberra), Feb 2007
‘Amazing is the best way to describe this play. The two main actors are intense, funny, and at times frightening in their portrayal of the two prisoners. The addition of audience interaction was seamless, and added to the impact of the show. A must see! 5 stars.’
Paul, Bank SA’s talkfringe.com, Mar 2007
‘The two guys who are the core of this work well together. And the idea is fantastic… Sort of like Waiting for Godot meets Super Mario. 4 stars.’
Dicky, Bank SA’s talkfringe.com, Mar 2007
‘This is a bit of surprise and well worth the effort. It’s got a light touch but it makes you think and is at times confronting. Sometimes a little convoluted to follow, but that’s part of the point. Life’s like that! The ensemble cast work together. Great stuff guys. I’ll be telling people not to let this slip under the radar. 4 stars.’
Stephen, Bank SA’s talkfringe.com, Mar 2007
At the Higher Ground, the Fringe Club venue in the heart of lower Rundle Street, Canberra’s Bohemian Productions performed A Prisoner’s Dilemma, a cleverly constructed interactive journey into a Stoppard-like world of game theory and science fiction.
Peter Wilkins, The Canberra Times, p9, 27 March 2007
Compelling on a different scale was Bohemian’s A Prisoner’s Dilemma at The Street Theatre, which deservedly got a near-sellout season. This gripping exploration of game theory and manipulation cleverly invites the viewer into the play before it grasps them by the scruff and forces them to sit through the consequences of their decisions.
Naomi Milthorpe, BMA Magazine, 10 July 2008