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Review: She Was Probably Not a Robot

Adelaide Fringe

Performer Stuart Bowden’s storytelling experience in a tiny theatre in the Garden of Unearthly Delights is fantastical, ludicrous, funny and heartfelt. ★★★★

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Stuart Bowden is a well-travelled, much-lauded Australian writer, performer and director who has won awards from previous Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals for his intimate theatre productions.

He returns this year with She Was Probably Not A Robot. It’s billed as a “lo-fi, DIY, off-beat, sci-fi storytelling experience”, and that’s pretty much exactly what’s delivered.

When the audience is squeezed into the Spare Room theatre, there’s a moment’s dread at the thought of an hour trapped in a shoebox, but the venue suits the show perfectly. (It’s worth noting that the air-conditioning is very effective.)

Waiting for us under the spotlight on stage is a ghost. Well, not really a ghost. It’s a man under a white sheet. He’s singing a spooky, woo-hoo tune, scaling higher and higher as he accompanies himself on a miniature Casio keyboard.

Once he ditches the spectral garb we meet our host and in between choruses of his warped, Laurie Anderson-esque introduction, he explains that he’s going to tell us a story. What we need to understand first is that we’re all dead. Everyone in the world is dead. Except him.

Bowden has a piercing gaze and a wonderfully expressive face. As he portrays his struggle for survival in the post-apocalyptic world, he sucks us in with sharp moves and a handful of homemade props, but he plays with language in a way that is undeniably sophisticated. It’s a mighty tale. Our hero rides the waves on an air mattress (he slept through the death of civilisation), regaling us with recollections of his faithful dog Jasmine and ex-girlfriend Veronica while he chats to Celeste, an intergalactic visitor with an interesting hobby.

This show is fantastical, ludicrous, funny and heartfelt. It’s about everything that’s right with the world. Count your blessings because once they’re gone they’re gone, and you probably can’t rely on an alien robot to bring them back for you.

This is a light-hearted look at the end of one man’s world, but things get deep in space.

Four stars

She Was Probably Not a Robot is being presented at the Spare Room, Garden of Unearthly Delights, until March 13


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