A robot-actor stuns London audiences in a new play

14 March 2017

Featuring a state-of-the-art ‘RoboThespian’, the London production Spillikin follows the story of a woman with Alzheimers living with a robot companion. Sarah Mills reports. There's a new star in town and he is not your usual Hollywood heartthrob. 'Robothespian' is, as his name suggests - a robot. And he's the lead of an unconventional new play on in London.
Writer and director, Jon Welch,…. "It's a story about a robot maker who builds… all of his life he builds robots and he develops degenerative illness in mid-life and realises he's not going to live to remain a companion to his wife. His wife by now is developing early Alzheimer's, so he builds his final creation, his final robot to be a companion to his wife."
Actress Judy Norman plays opposite Robothespian. She spends most of the play talking to the robot and even shares a kiss with him  The play poses big questions about love, death, technology and even the future of acting.
Behind the innovative idea is a lot of technical work, ensuring 'Robothespian' is in sync with the actors during the hour-and-a-half play.
Writer and director, Jon Welch: "For the play we have pre-programmed every single thing the robot says and every single thing the robot does, all the moves. There's about nearly 400 separate queues but they are made up of other files, all stuck together so there's probably a couple of thousand cues in reality. So the robot will always say the same thing and move the same way depending on what queue is been triggered what particular time which puts a big pressure on the actor acting with the robot to always have the right lines, always stand in the right place so the robot is looking at the right direction at that particular moment, so It is a really tough call for the actor."
'Spillinik" is in on at London's Pleasant Theatre until March 19 - when it will tour around the UK until April.