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Tim Price

Theatr Clwyd/Royal Court production

Theatr Clwyd

October 16-November 6, 2021;1hr 45 min, no interval.

Mark Lambert as Roger in Isla at Theatr Clwyd, Mold
Mark Lambert as Roger in Isla at Theatr Clwyd, Mold. All pics: Brian Roberts and Mark Douet

The time is coming when there will be more voice-activated digital assistants than people, suggests writer Tim Price in new dark comedy Isla – and all of them will appear to be female.

Elderly, lonely Roger needs company, and when his daughter Erin buys him the latest "Isla" digital assistant, he forms an unexpected bond with his inanimate companion.

This is the premise behind Isla, directed here by Tamara Harvey, but is only a starting point for discussing society's undercurrents as technology marches on relentlessly. You don't have to be elderly to find the pace of progress bewildering...

The possibilities for using this technology well, or abusing it – whether by accident or design – are immense, and this is playfully drawn out in the script, providing some great comic moments in the process. Roger, played with spiky charm by Mark Lambert, is initially suspicious but becomes accustomed to, and even resentful towards, his "digital slave".

But as his language and behaviour, fuelled by his isolation, degenerate, the play takes a sinister turn. His actions are cruelly exposed, causing extreme pain to Erin (Lisa Zahra). His flaws are mercilessly highlighted as he is "rehabilitated" by PC Jones (Catrin Aaron).

One can question then what the point of the play becomes. To highlight the dangers of social media? Maybe, or more likely a reminder that sexist and abusive language is corrosive wherever it occurs. Or is it an indictment of our general lack of care for lonely elderly people? All of these things are explored; the dangers of online technology most of all. There is no such thing as privacy online, everything is remembered forever, and no matter how much care we take, someone, somewhere can see what we are doing.

All valid points, but Isla's enduring legacy is a reminder that we should take full responsibility for our online identity, and treat others as we wish to be treated.

More information here


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