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FringeReview Scotland 2023


A co-production between Vanishing Point Unplugged: and An Tobar and Mull Theatre

Genre: Comedic, Community Theatre, Contemporary, Drama, Fringe Theatre, Theatre

Venue: Clarkston Hall


Low Down

Pauline has got herself a new Super Max 3000 washing machine that talks back at you and does the laundry. With a number of fascinating features, like a souped up ALEXA it also can read your washing, sort out your home and the take over your life.  Over the time it spends with Pauline, setting itself up for her every domestic need, it discovers feelings for her which change from concern to the type of interest we would and should always worry about. Eventually the whole discourse ends with Pauline in the machine and we are outside wondering if such AI shall ever manage to take over our lives as Max has done to Pauline.


Photocredit Eilidh Cameron

This has a slow burn quality to it. The beginning has Pauline attempt to set up the machine through voice activation. We are familiar with such technology interrupting us when we try to obey its commands or not quite understand what we say, but what is slightly less familiar is the ability this machine has to converse.

As it has opened with an amusing familiarity the long term implications of having a machine which can talk back with sinister overtones which is hidden: we don’t really see what is coming. The building of concern for Pauline which is expressed by the machine is at first touching and then unnerving as Pauline’s life and affair with a married man is slowly revealed. In a drunken night she drafts a resignation email to her boss which the machine sends it. Then the doors to the flat get locked. It’s an ill Alexa that blows its wind. As scripts go, it has a clear structure which works well enough.

It is directed with some skill and when the washing machine literally pops out itself onto the stage in the form of Andrew Keay, it has already taken us far enough along that this appears to be understandable. We don’t think it odd. In fact, it means that simply talking to a machine is less awkward as we have a human in front of us.

Both Keay and Louise Haggerty manage a very loose and touching onstage relationship which shows the coy nature of courting in a physical sense as Pauline finds her new machine charming – certainly more charming than the married man she has been seeing. But this all appears like a man of her nightmares too as the control exerted over her clothing becomes a control exerted over her liberty.

The design has charm and manages to avoid being too much of a cliché – it’s a big drum centre stage with a chair for Pauline to the side and hooks for clothes at the side of the centrally placed machine. It acts as functional but is also bright enough to denote shiny and new.

This has charm wrapped around a warning. It’s an interesting piece which is visiting community centres. Its central message is not something which asks fundamental questions that are obvious but fundamental questions that will not challenge your orthodoxy but it may lead to significant questions thereafter.


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