• Amy Toledano

Room Service presented by Cyborphic apart of Talos III Science Fiction Festival

What Is It?

Room Service by Richard Fitchett is presented as a part of Talos III: Science Fiction Theatre Festival of London. This show is about what happens when AI's and the customer service industry collide, creating a completely new and somewhat creepy guest experience.

What Is It About?

Max (Andrew Mullan), a businessman enters his hotel room only to discover, to his horror, that he is not alone. Zahra (Emma Stannard), a sometimes charming, sometimes creepy AI robot announces that she’s his companion for the duration of his stay. Throughout his trip, she learns more and more about him, in conventional and non-conventional ways. She talks to him and learns his likes and dislikes, but also knows where he is at all times thanks to GPS on his phone and access to CCTV. She also checks his stool, something that Max does not appreciate, but from it, she determines that he doesn’t have colon cancer, something that he does appreciate knowing. As she digs deeper into Max’s life, her excuse is always “it’s all a part of the experience” — a phrase that becomes less comforting the more she says it. During Max’s stay, Zahra handles everything from his meals to his room to his finances to his affair. She becomes more than a room service robot; she becomes his captor and companion.

How Did It Make Me Feel?

I really enjoyed the concept of an AI robot room service experience. With the sustained popularity of Japan’s AI hotels, it seems very likely that they’ll begin emerging in England. The subject feels very contemporary, however, overall, there were several missed opportunities in the performance.

There are various setups during the performance that don’t lead to a payoff. One of Zahra’s many party tricks is that she can replicate Max’s voice, and she does so to lie for him, but the second time she does it, it’s to hide his affair. Zahra always seems to be his friend, eliminating any conflict. Had Zahra used Max’s voice to complicate his life, say ruin his marriage because she didn’t see his wife to be a fit partner, that would have really upped the stakes. There’s also another moment when Zahra locks Max in his hotel room, leaving him to consider jumping out of the window. Instead of pushing him to his edge, Zahra makes a phone call, quelling the conflict. It would have been more interesting to see Zahra begin to fix Max’s life in her image, instead of helping him create a perfect one.

Where Is It Playing?

Room Service by Richard Fitchett is playing at the Omnibus Theatre and closes on Saturday 7 December 2019. If you’ve never been to the Omnibus Theatre, I highly recommend the space. The staff are lovely and the café is wonderful. It has vegan options and two friendly cats!

Anything Else? 

I think that this play has enormous potential, and can push itself even further in order to be even more thrilling and captivating.

Rebecca x

Room Service played at the Omnibus Theatre Studio until the 7th December 2019.

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