Reviewer: Myle Yan Tay
Performance: 3 September 2017
The premise of Human+ is simple and ubiquitous in science fiction: a woman is offered a chance to upgrade her body with technology to help combat an incurable disease. She rejects the proposal but she undergoes an operation after she’s left unconsciousness by an accident. This is then followed by scene after scene of tired philosophical ramblings, debating the morality or purpose of this technology.
Dr. McCaine, as played by Prem John, is for the procedure. Dr. Amble, played by Jo Tan, is against. That is where their characterization starts and ends. The actors do what they can but they ultimately feel like mouth pieces for Kamsani to relay his thoughts and concerns on technology, with little consideration for character development or depth. Jovian Nickson, as played by Mitchell Lagos, seems to be more human, but then goes through several massive personality adjustments to suit the trajectory of the plot. Of the four characters, only Kara Andrei, the girl experimented on, played by Shu Yi Ching, has any theatrical signs beyond purely ideological arguments. But even she is swallowed up in the script’s rhetoric when she is literally possessed by a rogue human AI (it is as coherent as it sounds) in a bizarre plot twist that sends her spiralling through dense and clunky monologues.
This is not to say that the issues Human+ explores are not interesting or relevant. But the plot stumbles along, driven by convenience, rather than any character motivation, making for thoroughly uncompelling drama. When any of the four characters’ perspectives change or their lives endangered, there is little to no emotional impact.
This reviewer’s biggest gripe with the production is its medium. No part of this production felt like it was elevated because it was onstage. It could have easily been a short film. The lighting brings little to the performance, the sound effects equally uninspired. There are two sequences where voiceovers are streamed while the actors mime action onstage. These sequences lack any punch or emotional weight, as the audience have disconnected with the characters. What this achieves is to further alienate the audience from an already disjointed production.
These voiceovers also introduce the aforementioned rogue human AI, Akamai, who though voiced with gravitas by Remesh Panicker, is even less interesting than any of the human characters with his super-villain monologues and plans for world domination. Every other message in Human+ is as blunt as Akamai: for example, when asked about her upgrade, Kara responds with a rant about cell-phones and how their potential is wasted on cat videos.
By Human+’s end, this reviewer concludes that the script could have been heavily edited to portray characters rather than embodying arguments. This does more justice to the themes Kamsani wants to explore rather than staging what feels like a flat TV script, forced onto the stage.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
HUMAN+ by Khairul Kamsani
31 August – 3 September 2017
KC Arts Centre
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Yan is currently studying in Yale-NUS College, where he enjoys spending his free time in far too many productions. Having tried acting, writing, and directing for the stage, Yan looks forward to reviewing. He believes that theatre should challenge both the audience and creators.