The title of this play alone takes you on a journey. The phrase is from a quote by French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, in which he is describing the egocentric pursuit of elusive things. It’s a perplexing sentence that perfectly represents the play, says artistic director, Bruce Gladwin.
“It’s a story in itself, and it’s a circular story and it’s not clear who the antagonist and who the protagonist is,” Gladwin explains. The play is a new work co-conceived and performed by five artists from Back To Back Theatre who are all, in varying degrees, intellectually disabled. Set in a community hall where a public meeting is taking place, the play deals with the looming threat of artificial intelligence and its implications for future jobs and society as a whole. It plays out pretty much in real-time and the audience is considered part of the ensemble and directly addressed (though they are not asked to participate). Through their discussion and allusions, the actors depict a grim hyper-reality and ask hard questions about the place of human beings in a future dominated by AI.
“It looks at human rights, particularly from the perspective of people with disabilities, but also raises broader questions about, you know, the emergence of artificial intelligence and at what point does artificial intelligence overtake human intelligence? Would we regard artificial intelligence as having human rights, but also, how will artificial intelligence treat us?” says Gladwin. A line in the play – ‘they’ll probably treat us how we treat chickens and turkeys’ – references a true story that partly inspired the play. In 2013, 32 intellectually disabled men in Iowa were discovered after having spent 40 years living and working in squalid conditions in a turkey factory. The actors compared the stories of abuse with some of their own experiences and used them to inform aspects of the play.
“It is quite a funny piece too, though. It’s not a didactic kind of experience, it’s quite an entertaining one,” says Gladwin. “We’re preparing you for the future.”
Sep 25-28. Carriageworks, 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh. $35+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.backtobacktheatre.com
By Rita Bratovich