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Black Swans | Omnibus Theatre

Black Swans, written by Christina Kettering, translated by Pauline Wick and directed by Ria Samartzi, explores the use of AI as a caregiver. The show follows two unnamed sisters as they struggle to care for their elderly mother and introduce an AI robot called Rosie to aid them. With tensions high between the sisters' fractured relationship, societal expectations, the increasing rise of AI, and questioning the notion of duty, the show has a really strong premise. 


The layers developed over the play make for a fascinating watch, with the back and forth narration from each of the sisters. It's also exciting to see how childhood responsibilities have reinforced their characters in the present, with the elder sister being avoidant and the younger fixating on coping mechanisms. This also adds a much needed element of humanity and provides the show with an emotional arc as the play focuses primarily on the present. 


The play has a unique story-telling device, with the two sisters narrating the play in a rather detached and mechanical manner, whether it's to highlight the difference and similarity to Rosie, or the matter of fact nature of the cold truths being discussed is unclear. However it's captivating in its own regard, feeling almost as though it were a book being read aloud by the weary characters of the novel. There is limited room for performance, with the narration mostly propelling the play along. 


The two performers (Camila França and Trine Garrett) do a good job and inject personality into the two sisters. Yet with the mechanical delivery of dialogues and lack of scope to acting, the play feels a little flat at times. The actors feel restrained even in the rare scenes of emotional outburst. With the play being so heavily reliant on narration, it would perhaps be more helpful to have more emotionally stimulated conversation between the two sisters. As it stands, it's a little hard to understand when the two performers switch between narration, to conversing with one another, or reminiscing about the past without the help from the lighting cues. That being said, França is great as Rosie and her earnest but fruitless attempts to help as the older sister add grounding to the show. Garrett as the younger sister brings a real sense of internal conflict and anguish. 



The stage is a rather long traverse staging, with four blocks (two on either end). The two performers use this long space, choosing to move along the length frequently whilst narrating, or choosing to position themselves at either end causing the audience to keep turning between them. There are occasional moments of classical music (Jovana Backovic)

which provides relief from the otherwise daunting silence around the narration. The lighting (Amy Daniels) often works as a cue for scene changes, and brings a little colour to the play. 


The ideas explored are fascinating, particularly in regards to AI, with Rosie simultaneously helping and harming the household. Her intelligence and lack of emotion carry a threat throughout the play, which is both feared and exploited by the younger sister. The final twist is unforseen and combined with a wonderful pounding effect and grey misty spotlights, bring this debate to a striking close. Through the sisters's relationship to Rosie, the play additionally makes several excellent points about the nature of mankind. As the play progresses, the audience are drawn into this world, trying to determine the solve the underlying mystery. 


Black Swans is an intelligent commentary about AI assistance in caregiving, with a formidable script. The show uses a series of effective ways of story-telling, keeping the audience engaged and thinking to the last. It is currently playing at the Omnibus Theatre until the 11th of May. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


⭐️⭐️⭐️


Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Tim Morozzo

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