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Error 404 at Polka Theatre, Wimbledon - review

PUBLISHED: 11:30 19 March 2015 | UPDATED: 12:49 21 April 2015

Archant

Deep, philosophical questions, such as the meaning of friendship and the nature of reality were at the heart of an interactive one-man show at the Polka theatre this month.

Error 404 is a thought-provoking story, written and performed by Daniel Bye and directed by Alex Swift, about a boy who takes solace in a robot after his best friend is killed in a house fire.

Bye is an engaging performer who involves his young audience at every step, asking them to name his characters, locations and story details and seeking their opinions on the big issues thrown up as the action unfolds.

The robot has been programmed to act and speak just like the boy’s late friend, yet the initial comfort it provides soon becomes a barrier to his ability to move on and develop other relationships. The story takes the pair to the finals of an international competition, where everything starts to go wrong. Eventually, the dilemma arises whether or not to switch the robot off. Can it actually be a friend if it has no heart or soul? Is it morally right to deny it the chance to ‘live’?

Bye poses tough questions like these throughout the story and challenges his audience to think about their responses, both during the play and afterwards, at a post-performance Q&A session. Eventually, the audience is invited to choose the end of the story for themselves and to decide the robot’s ultimate fate. After that, the story plays out as they decreed, adding an extra dimension to the conclusion of the plot.

Clever line drawings presented on a series of small screens provide a non-intrusive backdrop accompanying music comes courtesy of Bye, who performs, records and plays back simple tunes using a guitar and some rather whizzy iPad technology. Bye spent some time working as ‘resident philosopher’ with Pelham Primary School to research and develop his story; something that is clearly evident in his accessible approach and obvious interest in bringing philosophy to younger audiences.

Error 404 runs at the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon until 29 March 2015. Tickets can be bought online at www.polkatheatre.com/whats-on or by phone on (020) 8543 4888.

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