Heartbeats & Algorithms

What do you do when your computer knows you better than you know yourself? In a self-penned monologue about the dangers of data-mining and artificial intelligence, actor/writer Jenny Lee plays a high-flying coder losing control over her life to her own algorithms, which are able to predict her choices even before she does.

Lee's experience and confidence in creating and devising theatre comes through.

Lee opens with a sharply neutral diction, invoking the unfeeling voices of the computer programs she creates, but lets this settle into a personal coldness and detachment with an impressive vocal control. There is a nice shift into more personal depth, all the more striking for its gradual descent, with droll humour taking on greater hints of desperation as the play goes on. Lee offers faultless characterisation and is utterly believable across her arc.

The vast majority of the play covers her internal musings, occasionally dragging in what is usually a gripping and thoughtful piece, while some mediocre accents and curious music choices hinder the more interactive moments. And the performance itself is oddly static, opting for a motionless recitation rather than trying to create an imaginative space across the stage; the decision seems somewhat apt for the more chilling moments of the show, but the attempt at an uplifting ending seems to drop all of the tension it worked so hard to build. The stakes are suddenly very little, and it's left unexplained why Lee decided she didn't want the play to mean as much as it set itself up to. One is left feeling there was simply more to be done across the board.

In terms of the story, the subject matter is immediately intriguing, but Lee's use of hashtags and acronyms isn't nearly as new as it thinks it is; she truly comes into her own when dealing with more current and emerging anxieties, exploring the consequences of a technological world that denies you any privacy. The show's potential is somewhat let down by a lack of ambition and dissatisfying conclusion, letting the usual subtlety and poetry of her lines veer into the trite: "we're human and we're here..." But Lee's experience and confidence in creating and devising theatre comes through, and this thought-provoking piece still delights more than it disappoints.

Reviews by Henry St Leger

Pleasance Dome

Police Cops in Space

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

Frankie Vah by Luke Wright

★★★★★
Summerhall

A Hundred Different Words for Love

★★★★★
Bush Theatre

Guards at the Taj

★★★★★
Camden People's Theatre

Beta Public V

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Does your computer know about your embarrassing web searches? Does it know that, despite your claim to be fluent in German, you use Google Translate? Does it know about your casual relationship with porn? Does it know you better than your friends? Does it know you better than you know yourself? A dark, heart-achingly funny story that conjures up a seductive, inescapable world of information use and abuse and examines the role technology plays in our lives.