Inspired by the Roomba Robotic vacuum, combined with an exploration of ethics in the age of technology, Roomba Nation debuted at the Old 505 Theatre Friday night. Conceived of by Alison Bennett, she created the play along with Kate Walder and Nicholas O’Regan, who all feature.
Pippie (Alison Bennett) is sick and in need of a miracle. She travels from Australia to Europe where she is hoping the Nords will help her with a new treatment that they are hoping will be a scientific breakthrough. A group of robotic devices aid the doctor in treatment (actually they perform many routine services, including check-in) though the bedside manner of the bots has not entirely been perfected.
While the doctor (Kate Walder) and her nurse (Nicholas O’Regan) disagree as Nursy becomes uncomfortable with the effects of the treatment, Pippie loses her initial pep. Has Pippie travelled there just to hear the words ‘You are dying’? Many people when faced with death choose denial until they are told explicitly the brutal truth. Miracle treatments are hailed as the ideal, but some people can and do make peace with death, leaving the miracles for others.
Alison Bennett as Pippie is a study in understatement. She seems timid and eager to please, in spite of an initial inclination towards sticky fingers. She reels in agony a few times but doesn’t stretch belief, keeping the emotions from sliding into hysteria.
Kate Walder and Nicholas O’Regan both give vastly amusing performances as the Doctor and Nursy respectively. Walder is hilarious as she performs for a panel of colleagues intent on extracting interest in her treatment, while O’Regan’s cold officiousness softens when he becomes skeptical of the treatment. Both are endearing and give a delightfully quirky flavour to the show.
Whether or not ‘care-bots’ will be developed for use in health and science in our time, sometimes death does become us, especially if we are permitted the dignity and comfort that we deserve at the end of life. Roomba Nation is a very funny if sometimes cryptic tale of science versus humanity.
Roomba Nation is presented by Hurrah Hurrah and on until 21 July, for more information and tickets see: https://old505theatre.com/shows/roomba-nation-1510965855.html
Featuring: Alison Bennet, Kate Walder and Nicholas O’Regan.
Creative/Tech Team: Alison Bennett (concept & creator), Kate Walder (creator) and Nicholas O’Regan (creator), Duncan Maurice (production designer), Moreblessing Maturure (script supervisor), Tegan Nicholls (sound design), Alex Torney (lighting design), David Kirkpatrick (robot design & technology), Emma Maloney (stage management), Felicity Nicol, Kate Sherman and Curly Fries(advisors).