The word “robot” comes to us from the theatre – introduced to the English language by a 1920 science-fiction play called R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). Now, finally, robots have a theatre company of their own thanks to Osaka University’s Robot Theater Project.
This week, (human) Japanese playwright and director Oriza Hirata brings two of the company’s shows with mixed casts to Toronto’s Canadian Stage. I, Worker is a comedy that juxtaposes the stories of a grieving human couple and their depressed worker robot, while Sayonara shows a poetry-reciting android attempting to console a human girl with a terminal illness.
The first features a pair of orange and green Robovie R3s that are obviously robots, but a theatre critic in New York recently reported his surprise that many audience members were unable to tell which of the characters in Sayonara was played by a flesh-based actor. Whether that speaks to the quality of humanoid Geminoid F’s (im)personation – she is capable of 65 facial expressions – or the mechanical nature of her co-star Bryerly Long’s performance, Torontonians will be able to find out for themselves this week – the shows open on Wednesday.