- Liam Rees
- 25 August 2019
A precise performance adrift in the uncanny valley
Emily Carding stares out blankly. Her neon blue bodysuit stands out in the black box stage. Hair clinically slicked back and covered in blue and white makeup she exudes an otherworldly air. She has become Ariel from The Tempest, with a twist that is characteristic of Carding's experimental takes on the Bard.
This Ariel is not simply an ethereal fae presence but is the persona of a super-intelligent AI that has long outlived humans, with only the Shakespearean canon to understand what it means to be human. This somewhat contrived concept is held together by Carding's shapeshifting performance that traverses the uncanny valley via eerily aloof accounts of humanity's extinction and a reel of Shakespearean monologues.
It's a heavily condensed, potted history of the eventual end of the world that highlights Carding's technical prowess but Quintessence lacks the rigour that was present in her previous work. Without more time and space to explore the human (and AI) condition, the character development feels rushed and before long Ariel devolves into yet another example of AI gone evil, no better than the humans that created it. At her best Carding is in a world of her own, but Quintessence doesn't fully lift off.
Sweet Novotel, run ended.