The Space@Surgeon’s Hall, Niddry Street, Edinburgh

Jordan (Matt Vickery) is a wealthy tech entrepreneur living in a swish apartment, locked away from the stress of the outside world. Connie (Emma Wilkinson Wright) is his latest partner. When we first meet the couple, they are in the early stages of a relationship, in love with each other and looking towards making some kind of a future together. With this in mind, Connie leaves her flat and moves in with Jordan. He is already unpleasantly smug but, as time goes on, he becomes ever more controlling, exerting his influence over Connie – over what she wears and where she goes.

Jordan’s household is run by Alivia (voiced by Jessica Munna), an AI device that handles the day-to-day running of the home. Essentially, she’s Alexa, only a few generations further on. She’s able to communicate effortlessly with her human companions, to reason things out with them – and, as Jordan is so fond of observing, unlike Connie, she’s infallible. Alivia doesn’t eat, she doesn’t drink alcohol and she has no inconvenient ambitions to become a mother. Jordan knows he can always depend on Alivia to give him the answers he wants to hear.

Greg Wilkinson’s intriguing play, longlisted for the Popcorn Award, takes us just a few small steps into the future and spins a prescient tale of humanity’s increasing dependence on AI. Along the way it makes some cogent points about society’s constant striving for perfection – and how much easier it is for humans to evade their responsibilities by handing them on to their electronic carers.

Unlike many shock/horror stories that have flirted with the same subject matter, Assisted takes a more subtle approach, delivering a nuanced take on its chosen theme. Vickery and Wilkinson Wright play their parts with panache and Munna somehow manages to create a memorable presence with her voice alone.

This is an intriguing and credible vision of the near future.

4 stars

Philip Caveney


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