"Boy meets artificial intelligence love-story"
by Rachel Knightley for remotegoat on 07/04/16

Set in a TV studio of the not-too-distant future, Comic Potential is an exploration of the relationship between what makes us laugh and what it is to be human. A daytime TV ‘actoid’ develops a fault that allows her to appreciate – and laugh at – comedy. Aspiring writer Adam sees her potential as an actor and a human, names her “Jacie” after her registration number, and liberates her from the studio so they can build a future together, onscreen and off. But Jacie’s circuitry is ill-equipped for the pain and confusion of falling in love and what it will do to her circuitry.

In this sharp and moving script, Ayckbourn practices what he preaches: the jokes are all acknowledgements of character flaws and relationships that are all too human and recognizable in any era. Slapstick and psychology are equally elegantly delivered, making Comic Potential an articulate exploration of comedy and a successful comic play in its own right. Unfortunately, this emotional dexterity shows up a lack of nuance where insufficient thought has been given to the emotional life behind the characters.

The stand-out performance was Jacie, not only for comic timing – this production’s great strength – but, crucially, for how deeply she inhabited her character. The sense of reality and surprise allowed her to achieve the sense of personal journey that was missing from the human characters onstage with her, where movement was often generalized and reflected a lack of deeper focus and connection. While there is stereotypicality in the script, it is possible to find more specific, real individuals than often felt the case. Technical problems were hard to recover from: moments of violence were uncomfortably under-rehearsed and the lack of fear in supporting characters made potentially tight scenes awkward, as they were more aware of the comedy from the audience’s point of view than they were from their own character’s fear in the violence of the situation. Jacie’s commitment brought the reality of the world of the play that the production needed and made up for a somewhat emotionally immature feel overall.

Other recent reviews by Rachel Knightley
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