Friday, July 14, 2023

Lucie in the Sky

 Lucie in the Sky for Uncharted Territory by Australasian Dance Collective.

Canberra Theatre Centre, The Playhouse July 14-15, 2023

Reviewed by Frank McKone
July 14


Concept and Creation - Amy Hollingsworth
Choreography - Amy Hollingsworth in collaboration with the
ADC company artists:
Dramaturg and Rehearsal Direction - Gabrielle Nankivell
Lighting Design - Alexander Berlage
Music Composition and Sound Design - Wil Hughes
Costume Design - Harriet Oxley
Drone Choreography – Amy Hollingsworth and Verity Studios
Drone Programming - Verity Studios
Technical Advisor - Dr Catherine Ball
Creative Development contributors - Jack Ziesing, Lonii Garnons-Williams, Tyrel
Dulvarie, Josie Weise and Jag Popham


The Friend – Lucie (Drone)
The Jester – Skip (Drone)
The Caregiver - Chimene Steele-Prior
The Leader – M (Drone)
The Artist - Lilly King
The Innocent - Chase Clegg-Robinson
The Sage – Rue (Drone)
The Seeker - Jack Lister
The Magician - Harrison Elliott
The Rebel – Red (Drone)
The Warrior - Taiga Kita-Leong

Director’s Note
Lucie In the Sky is the culmination of that dreaming – we have utilised complex coding and incredibly precise crafting of flight patterns and emotional context to create a work that has coaxed the ‘Pixar effect’ out of animation and into real life, finding joy, grief, rage and empathy appearing in our cast of humans and drones.”

With all the respect I can muster I have to report that Lucie in the Sky achieves very little dramatically either in real life or in the ‘Pixar effect’.  

It also fails entirely to create the essential understanding about human responsibility in coding Artificial Intelligence.  Humans program drones.  

The drones in the show appear to have autonomy, and appear to us to have emotions, but only because of the way the human actors react to the drones to create in us, watching, the idea that they have an emotional inter-relationship.  Only humans can act; drones can only do what they have been coded to do.

I’m not qualified to write critically of the originality of the dancers’ choreography, nor of the technical quality of what to me looked like extraordinary athletic flexibility, but I have no doubt that the dancers are top performers.

But, considering the director’s intentions, which she explained before the performance and followed up in the after-show symposium, it is an extraordinary mistaken concept to define the characters according to a selection from Karl Jung’s 12 ‘Archetypes’.  

If, as we were roundly told in the symposium, our world is already run by AI Coders and we must be advanced in our education of children to make sure they keep up with the new as they take over running the world in the coming decade, how could anyone go back to the antiquated and thoroughly discounted imaginary psychological categories that Jung invented early in the last century.

So instead of showing us, surrounded by an enormously over-the-top ‘Pixar’ soundtrack, the life of humans from lots of activity, through individual experiences, to a death with a drone looking sadly on, leaving us to imagine that cybernetics can be kindly, maybe a modern dance company should tell us a story of what drones are really used for – like accurately bombing people half a world away from the coder operator.

And I hope that the symposium speakers really meant that our children need to be taught the ethics of coding for Artificial Intelligence – for example to help correct our industrial and agricultural misbehaviour which may yet make our planet uninhabitable.

In that dance, the drones help the humans with positive hope for the future, rather than just sadly watch them die.

A drone's view of the cast of
Lucie in the Sky
Canberra Theatre Centre