Review written by Flossie Waite
Presented by Polka Theatre
4th March – 29th March 2015
For ages 8+
Error 404 is about a boy who suffers huge loss, and becomes best friends with a robot that is programmed to help him. So far, so Big Hero 6. But, unlike the Disney film, Daniel Bye’s philosophical production does everything it can to get young people thinking, questioning, and participating. And I mean everything. The audience are called on to contribute to the creation of the show, offering up names, back stories, pastimes, and even the ending. Which is how I ended up watching a play with a large element of ‘extreme abseiling football’.
From Stephen Hawking’s warning about the rise of Artificial Intelligence, to parents worrying about children constantly hunched over laptops, our technological age is a pretty constant cause for concern. But Error 404 is pretty neutral on this topic: this isn’t a show about whether or not computers are bad for kids. To prove this, Error 404 incorporates a substantial technological element – the main features of the set are a laptop, iPad, looping machine and screens. At the same time, it is an extra-live piece of theatre ‘ – Bye (writer and performer) plays a live soundtrack; he is constantly improvising, responding to events in the room; and the audience are involved in the production’s direction, to create a show that will be completely different each time it is performed.
In fact, Bye uses technology as a jumping off point to ask some meaty questions (and when I say he asks some meaty questions, I mean that he literally looks at the audience and asks the questions, with every expectation of a response). How do we know anything? What is reality? Are you real? What does it mean to be human? He does this without offering any answers, to the extent that it was hard to know who was supposed to be questioning who in the 10 minute Q&A after the show.
This isn’t a didactic, educational production, trying to sneak in bits of Kant while the audience isn’t looking. It’s a good, emotive story that is pointedly thought-provoking. In the performance I saw, the audience were interjecting and talking back quite a bit; Error 404 comes at a perfect time for the targeted age range, who are full of questions and curiosity. The future may be full of power-hungry automatons; let’s hope it’s also full of productions like Error 404.
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