AI is a hot topic in contemporary theatre, but writers often stumble by relying heavily on dystopian motifs or portraying AI unrealistically as a mystical, all-knowing force. In his debut play Artificially Yours, Aaron Thakar (who also stars) avoids these pitfalls by grounding the story in a recognisable near-future, incorporating existing technological norms, and adopting a comedic slant. Tricky, but a refreshing approach.


The play kicks off with a spot-on video advertisement introducing Agapé, an AI device akin to Alexa or Siri, voiced with uncanny precision by Katherine Moran. Agapé serves as a virtual couples therapist: tracking, monitoring and offering real-time guidance, with the purpose of making any relationship work. Three couples (an older, divorced pair, and two younger ones) navigate various troubles, with one member from each embracing the use of AI, the other more sceptical.


It is noteworthy how normal this all feels. Watching people engage in full conversations with an electronic device no longer feels futuristic. You can already imagine something like Agapé inhibiting our lives in the next few years, with AI chatbots already becoming the norm. Indeed, it is in moments where Agapé shows off her abilities that the play truly shines. We see how natural it can be to integrate a virtual being into our lives, while also made aware of our potential to over-rely on it.


Thakar succeeds conceptually, but the writing could benefit from refinement to fully drive his ideas home. While he demonstrates a strong grasp of AI and its implications, his youth occasionally shows through. His characters are interesting, but they lack depth, most having generic backstories. The play maintains a comedic tone, but the jokes often feel like one-off gags, rather than contribute to the plot or character development. More edge and gravitas, even hints of satire, would add more weight.


Structurally, the three storylines work, but a tighter weaving of the narratives would be more satisfying. The younger couples’ connection through work provides opportunity for comparison, but the older pair feels disconnected until a late-stage reveal that has minimal effect. And while Hannah’s McLeod’s direction keeps the pace lively, cycling through short fragmented scenes becomes tiresome. The production misses the potential to intertwine scenes and overlap transitions more to draw out further parallels.


Nonetheless, the cast delivers engaging performances. Leslie Ash and Thakar infuse their roles with humanity, sincerely portraying their longing for connection – perhaps the reason they deeply rely on Agapé. Ella Jarvis (who also produces) has some standout moments, including very convincing drunk acting. Destiny Mayers is compelling throughout, particularly when she challenges Agapé. Though occasionally veering into ham territory, Jake Mavis and Paul Giddings offer light-hearted fun. Curiously, they are two characters most wary of the technological innovations at hand.


The heart of the play’s issues unfold in the final twenty minutes, with some form of resolution for each couple – albeit a bit rushed. Ultimately, Artificially Yours does not take a definitive stance on AI, leaning toward caution while remaining hopeful about its prospect to function harmoniously with humanity. Despite its imperfections, the play shows Thakar’s promise – a new playwright certainly worth watching.