A therapy session with an android? Sign me up! Or maybe, don’t. Consequences, meaning, connection and technology merge in writers Daniel Bainbridge and Cam Scriven’s new piece Good Day. The intimate, experimental show taps into human mortality, and the potential ramifications of immortality, in a new digital age. In a world with no poverty and no war, what are humans left with to find meaning? We sat down with the show’s Director Marlie Haco to dig underneath the steely surface of Good Day, and talk all things AI, human agency, death and Whisky Sours.
Catch Good Day tomorrow onwards, from Tuesday 7th March to the Sunday 12th March at 18:30, 14:30 or 18:00 (date dependent). Tickets are available through the VAULT Festival Box Office.
Hi Marlie! You’re directing Good Day at VAULT Festival – the piece seems pretty high concept at first, with a character who has extended their life with a microchip debating the end of her days with an ‘Android Therapist’. Would you describe the piece as high concept and what do you have to tell us about the setting?
On the one hand yes, Good Day is set in a futuristic world in which humans are immortal and androids can (to some extent) function as autonomous beings who experience emotions and desires. However, the play uses this concept as a vehicle to explore questions around how we find meaning and connection in our lives. Indeed, it is the humanity of the characters amidst this AI-driven landscape that I want to dramatise on the stage, combining video and creative captions with movement and music to do so.
On the surface, the world of the play is utopian – people live without fear of danger, they don’t encounter loss or grief, and money is not a concern – but in directing the play, I’m interested in exposing the dystopian underbelly of the setting, presenting technology as an omnipresent force that may have saved the characters from death, but also damned them to a life devoid of purpose.
The piece raises complex questions about artificial intelligence, transhumanism and mortality. How did you come to approach those themes with the cast, especially in light of the show’s comedic elements?
As you say, the text raises a lot of unanswerable questions about the impact of AI and what this means for human agency, but through a combination of discussion, research, and improvisation, we have begun to imaginatively answer some of these questions. We have also explored some of these themes physically, locating gestures in the body and looking at how the characters might control, or be controlled by, their electronic chip and in Zara’s case, try to destroy it.
In terms of approaching the tone, the text does a lot of the work for us in that the comedy is mostly interwoven with the exploration of these themes – something I love about the play is how light and dark lie so closely together and I hope my production finds ways to hold both simultaneously. I am lucky enough to be working with a talented cast who very naturally balance the potential for both humour and pathos in the text.
The show’s listing talks about Zara, the central character, overcoming the “human drive to survive”. What does the show have to tell us about mortality and prospective immortality facilitated by tech?
Without giving too much away, I feel the play presents mortality as a gift, not a curse. Our necessarily limited time is both fundamental to our humanity and inextricably linked to the capacity to find meaning and forge deep connections with others. In a way, the play projects forward very far into the future in order to explore what has stayed the same – even in an age of General Artificial Intelligence, human feeling endures, however petty or profound.
Tell us a little bit about the process of creating the show and what you have been up to ahead of the show landing at VAULT Festival.
The process really started towards the end of last year when we found out we’d been programmed at the festival. The play went through some significant changes in that period as I worked with the writers to develop the text into what we are now using in rehearsals. Like with any show, it was then about finding the right people (cast and creative team) to help us bring the story to life. Now we’re into rehearsal, it’s a process of layering together all the thoughts and ideas we share as a company – working out how the physical comedy fits with the show’s darker elements for example, or how the video design can support the more abstract movement sequences. Every day we’re building, what I hope will be, an engaging and three-dimensional experience that exploits the potential of live theatre to explore the play’s central themes and questions.
Now that we’re gearing up for your show at VAULT Festival 2023, what are you most excited for?
I’m excited to see other Vault shows – there’s so much talent and creativity in what’s been programmed, I’m looking forward to being inspired by the other artists in the line-up! I’ve also never been part of the festival before so I’m nervous, but excited for audiences to see Good Day and to get a sense of how the show is received. I’ve been with the play for quite a while now, I’m very invested in the world we’ve created and the characters we find in it, so I find it hard to imagine how someone completely fresh to it will respond.
We would love to use Vault Festival as a springboard for future runs of Good Day and hope that the show will transfer to another London venue and/or tour to regional theatres. If you are interested in being part of that journey – whether as an audience member or theatre looking for new productions, please get in touch! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about the show and the company behind it, you can follow us @doubletelling on Instagram & Twitter or visit my website https://www.marliehaco.com/productions/goodday
Fitting with the themes of our magazine, if your show was an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage (think cocktails, mocktails, shots, beers, be creative!) what would it be?
Maybe a Whisky Sour – both bitter and sweet; the taste stays with you after it’s finished.