The Toymaker's Child

Script and music by Dave Carey
Chickenshed Theatre

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Green Rota Credit: Daniel Beacock
Green Rota Credit: Daniel Beacock
Green Rota Credit: Daniel Beacock
Cara McInanny as Kat, Beatrice Afhim as Katy, Courtney Dayes as PIN:0Cch10 and Demar Lambert as Mr Cunning Credit: Daniel Beacock

Chickenshed takes an optimistic view of artificial intelligence (AI) in its entertaining Christmas show, which reimagines the story of Pinocchio in the context of current debates about the dangers and benefits of AI.

The Toymaker (Gabriel Palmer), concerned that his child Katy (performed very effectively by Beatrice Afhim on the evening of the review) is sad, lonely and withdrawn after the death of their mother, creates a potential friend PIN:0Cch10 from a discarded computer chip.

Unfortunately, the new creation tells the Toymaker and Katy they are boring, breaks the remote control and walks out. Katy, intrigued by the toy's claims to have lots of knowledge but no feelings, joins them on what becomes a strange adventure.

Their journey will be accompanied by generally upbeat songs, sometimes from choreographed gatherings of about a hundred and fifty young people in the Green Rota, and on occasions from individual singers such as the very confident, singing, dancing Courtney Dayes as robot toy PIN:0Cch10.

The toy’s escape creates a media storm, with Mike’s News situated in an upper-level box shelf leading the way, with reports from reporter Mandy (Lauren Cambridge) at the scenes of competing demonstrations and the supposed commentary on the “absconded AI” from studio guests, who either know nothing or have nothing to say. Placards carried by demonstrators to one side of the stage carry slogans such as “Keep the Printeens off our streets”; on the other side, they bear demands such as “Free the Printeens.”

The two rogues, Mr Cunning (Demar Lambert) and Kat (Cara McInanny), have something very different in mind for the two runaways. Initially, they sell them to a fair, which locks them in a cage.

Fortunately for the prisoners, Accidental Blue Fairy (ABF), who works nearby as a singing waitress dressed in an alligator costume, passes the cage, takes pity on them and, using skills learned from her dad, releases them.

After hearing ABF (Bethany Hamlin) sing about her dream of being the lead in a West End musical and speak about her frustration with her lack of opportunities, Katy compliments and encourages their new friend.

If the cage experience wasn’t scary enough for the pair, they soon find themselves in an Unschool, where the object is to teach you to fail to learn anything. An existing student, Wicky Wicky Wicky (Michael Bossisse), tells them he’s been so bad at it, he’s got a PhD.

These and other adventures change PIN:0Cch10’s emotional relationship with Katy, and both join the rest of the cast in a grand song to finish the uplifting show. It might not convince you either way about the benefits or dangers of AI, but you will enjoy joining Katy and PIN:0Cch10 on their musical journey.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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