Canning Times - - LIFESTYLE - Tanya Mac­naughton

BARKING Gecko The­atre Com­pany artis­tic di­rec­tor Matt Edger­ton likes to tackle some­thing that ei­ther scares or chal­lenges him on each work he di­rects.

He has cat­e­gor­i­cally achieved this with the com­pany’s pro­duc­tion My Ro­bot.

“I’ve never made a show with a ro­bot in it and we’ve built a ro­bot from scratch; a be­spoke ro­bot,” Edger­ton said.

“It’s in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing for me to go into new ter­ri­tory.”

The idea for the play grew out of dis­cus­sion at Barking Gecko about the in­ter­sec­tion of art and sci­ence and prompted Edger­ton to phone Ho­bart­based play­wright Fine­gan Kruck­e­meyer, who re­cently won a life­time achieve­ment award for writ­ing chil­dren’s the­atre de­spite still be­ing in his 30s.

“He is one of the world’s best writ­ers for chil­dren; he’s pro­lific,” Edger­ton said.

“Fin came on board at the same time as Steve Ber­rick, our Perth ro­bot builder and de­signer. So while I was de­vel­op­ing the play with Fin, Steve would give us an­swers like ‘No, we can’t make a ro­bot who can catch a ball but we can build one who can shoot silly string’.

“It’s just that ques­tion of what is pos­si­ble with tech­nol­ogy at the mo­ment. Fine­gan re­ally shaped his script around the ro­bot Steve could make.”

The the­atre com­pany also part­nered with Scitech and UWA, whose “ro­bot boffins” were on hand to of­fer advice dur­ing any fur­ther chal­lenges.

The play, suit­able for chil­dren four to 12 years old, cen­tres on young girl Ophe­lia (played by Arielle Gray) who moves with her dad (played by St John Cowcher) from the moun­tains to a sea­side town and hates it be­cause she does not have any friends.

“One night a bunch of junk ar­rives from the junk shop down­stairs; it comes up in the dumb­waiter with a note that says ‘’,” Edger­ton said.

“She doesn’t know who has writ­ten the note or what it means but she puts all of the parts to­gether, in­clud­ing an Olivetti type­writer, and cre­ates a ro­bot she then calls Olivetti. We say it’s a play about mak­ing friends – lit­er­ally.”

Edger­ton said he hoped au­di­ences en­joyed the crack­ing story that, like most great sci­ence fic­tion, had a very hu­man mes­sage at the heart of it.

“No mat­ter what hap­pens, you have the power to change your life for the bet­ter, which is what Ophe­lia does,” he said.

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie

Arielle Gray with Olivetti in My Ro­bot. d475448

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