BARKING Gecko Theatre Company artistic director Matt Edgerton likes to tackle something that either scares or challenges him on each work he directs.
He has categorically achieved this with the company’s production My Robot.
“I’ve never made a show with a robot in it and we’ve built a robot from scratch; a bespoke robot,” Edgerton said.
“It’s incredibly exciting for me to go in to new territory.”
The idea for the play grew out of discussion at Barking Gecko about the intersection of art and science and prompted Edgerton to phone Hobart-based playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer, who recently won a lifetime achievement award for writing children’s theatre despite still being in his 30s.
“He is one of the world’s best writers for children; he’s prolific,” Edgerton said.
“Fin came on board at the same time as Steve Berrick, our Perth robot builder and designer. So while I was developing the play with Fin, Steve would give us answers like ‘No, we can’t make a robot who can catch a ball but we can build one who can shoot silly string’.
“It’s just that question of what is possible with technology at the moment. Finegan really shaped his script around the robot Steve could make.”
The theatre company also partnered with Scitech and UWA, whose “robot boffins” were on hand to offer advice during any further challenges.
The play, suitable for children four to 12 years old, centres on young girl Orphelia (played by Arielle Gray) who moves with her dad (played by St John Cowcher) from the mountains to a seaside town and hates it because she does not have any friends.
“One night a bunch of junk arrives from the junk shop downstairs; it comes up in the dumbwaiter with a note that says ‘you.make.me’,” Edgerton said.
“She doesn’t know who has written the note or what it means but she puts all of the parts together, including an Olivetti typewriter, and creates a robot she then calls Olivetti. We say it’s a play about making friends – literally.”
Edgerton said he hoped audiences enjoyed the cracking story that, like most great science fiction, had a very human message at the heart of it.
“No matter what happens, you have the power to change your life for the better, which is what Ophelia does,” he said.
“We’re in a changing world of technology that will be a part of kid’s lives in the future. We want them to be brave and courageous and embrace the future with confidence and optimism.”
What: My Robot
Where: Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA
When: November 11 to 25