Robbie the Robot Learns English - And Saves the Day!

Just because a show is intended for children is no excuse for bad acting. This cleaning drama focuses on two young girls who have been left alone by their parents and the house has become an utter tip. Feeling the need to tidy up, they order a house-cleaning robot, only to find that he has been dropped on his head and they have to teach him English. From the first instant, Ruth Murphy as Jane and Siobhan Ronalson as Rosie are completely unconvincing as children. Admittedly, they have not been given much of a script to work with but their delivery of the lines lacks any sense of genuine belief in their characters. The only redeeming factor is the character of dysfunctional robot Robbie who gets some of the few laughs in the show. Unfortunately once he is cured these disappear as well.

This show fails to do the very thing that it claims it has set out to do: to teach children to develop language skills. The few words that they seem to be encouraging them to learn - although it is hard to tell - are not really used to prompt the children and efforts at getting the audience involved are desultory at best.

Lighting becomes strangely dark or bright at different points in the show which really jars with the events onstage. This could be dismissed alongside the rest of the first day technical problems, were it not for the casts’ seeming inability to cope with technical difficulties, sticking rigidly to their lines which only serves to further weaken their vague pretence of character. One wonders if they even have rehearsed the show in the space, considering how they struggle to get Robbie onstage while in his cardboard box.

Perhaps it is unintentional, but it is rather uncomfortable to have a story which aims ‘to give non-English speaking children the opportunity to learn a little English’ focussing on the exploits of a cleaner who is told by one of the characters to go home. Fortunately, however, it appears that such stereotyping will have little effect on the children: in the best moment of the show some of the children got onstage to help tidy up; in a lovely reversal of stereotypes we saw four boys and only one girl help with the housework. Long live such nonconformity.

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Performances

The Blurb

Two sisters hire a robot to help with the housework ... but he proves to be more trouble than they imagined! Children learn simple English through songs and storytelling.

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