Festival show looks at the relationship between man and machine

NNF16. Flat. Photo: Vincent Lucas.

NNF16. Flat. Photo: Vincent Lucas. - Credit: Vincent LUCAS /le facteur d'imag

With people spending more time relying on the electronic world, where does the boundary lie between man and machine? The show Sans Objet aims to find out, as John Bultitude discovers.

NNF16 - Sans Objet. Photo: Aglae Bory.

NNF16 - Sans Objet. Photo: Aglae Bory. - Credit: Aglae Bory

Having a 1970s-style assembly line robot on stage at Norwich Theatre Royal is probably a first.

And this slightly unusual hi-tech prop is at the core of the show Sans Objet, a mixture of technology and creativity.

Created by choreographer Aurélian Bory, it sees the robot perform alongside two acrobats Olivier Alenda and Olivier Boyer in a dance piece mixing man and machine.

The premise of Sans Objet is almost a battle in trying to work out who is the most powerful, inspired by the iconic chess battles of the late 1990s between grand master Garry Kasparov and the computer Deep Blue.


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Aurélian said: 'The dialogue between man and machine is becoming deeper and complex, making competition inevitable. 'Kasparov's defeat and the advances in robotics and computers indicates the machine is getting better. The emergence of prostheses and technology are shaking up the world of sports. It means man, his body and mind, are no longer alone.'

In fact, in Sans Objet, the robot is very much at the centre of the action.

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Aurélian said: 'At the start, it is covered by a black plastic sheet. We cannot see the machine but this only makes it seem more alive as it moves underneath. It is a kind of kinetic sculpture speaking of the birth of shape, the birth of life and the birth of beauty.'

Aurélian's first challenge in creating the show was to find the robot to take the starring role, and from there it was a case of developing the performance which initially was going to feature the robot and one dancer.

'I then decided I needed two people because technology is so often used to help two human beings work together. Technology can also change our relationships to other people. I felt we needed two people so they could watch each other,' he said.

Despite having two performers, Aurélian was clear he wanted the robot to be the main element of Sans Objet.

He said: 'I wanted to create a dance between the humans and this cold, hard machine which is not so good to dance with. That is why it is important that the performers are acrobats. It means they can climb and stand at a height of three or four metres without a problem. I also enjoy working with them as they have some very different and specific ways of exploring what I want to do on stage.'

In the finished show, expect stunning set-pieces mixing the human and the mechanical and also moments that play into all of our emotions including humour. It is also not just a show for adults.

'I've never done shows specifically for children but I am thrilled when I see a few in the room. I consider them my allies,' said Aurélian.

Young or old, be prepared for the ultimate piece of creative dance that explores our relationship between human and technology. Who comes out on top? You decide.

The show is sponsored by Eastern Daily Press and Abellio Greater Anglia.

Sans Objet is at Norwich Theatre Royal on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7.30pm. Tickets £7-£22 - call 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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