Alan Ayckbourn's vision of the future has a recurring component - the faulty android. His latest play for all the family, Callisto #7 - a rewrite of 1990's Callisto #5 - is no different. This time the robot is Padwac (Mark Stratton) whose leaking emotion banks are causing faults within the standard commercial baby sitting software he is programmed with.
The action takes place on board Uniplex No. 7, the maintenance unit of a space station set up on Jupiter's moon Callisto. Jodi (Charlie Hayes) and Jem (Lindsey Fawcett) have been alone in the Uniplex for five years - since their parents went to the urgent assistance of the other inhabitants of Callisto. In their absence, on-board computer Iris (the voice of Sherry Baines) has done her best to entertain the youngsters by randomly conversing. Things get tricky when an alien, who enjoys the moon's -200° temperatures, manages to gain access to the Uniplex. Thus follows a battle against a creature that can only be seen through the lens of a video camera, handily projected onto four monitors so the audience could, if they wished, shout 'it's behind you'. And to think Ayckbourn once said that pantos were for people who leave their brains outside the theatre door!
So what we have is an interesting premise, the promise of fun, some decent performances - Hayes, who has been in just about everything in Scarborough for the last year, is again great while Fawcett proves that young women make better and more believable boys than boys - and the use of video adds an interesting dimension. Roger Glossop's set and Christine Wall's robot costume are all a bit tongue in cheek, parodying Fifties cinematic sci-fi, as do Simon Cryer's sound designs.
There is also much to be learnt about Jupiter and its moons and, for Greek mythology fans, is it mere coincidence that the alien life form swanning around Callisto resembles a bear? Or maybe, in my effort to find a redeeming feature, I'm looking too deep because this play, quite frankly, is just not as funny or entertaining as it could and should have been. Still, if we look to the future, maybe Ayckbourn will get it right for Callisto #9.