Review: You and I (Underbelly Bristo Square, Edinburgh)
A new musical with an AI twist
Tom Williams and Cordelia O'Driscoll bagged the hefty Cameron Mackintosh Award for musical making in 2018, after their rather successful new show Buried. This time they return to the Fringe with the endearing You and I, a small and quirky one-act piece.
The plot is like a musical mashup of Her and Big Hero 6 (Big Guitar Her-o 6?): Fran acquires a walking talking AI named Robert created by her sister, who she then has to both hide from the world and educate. There's nothing too genre-busting going on and a lot of it is familiar territory for even the most casual of sci-fi fans, but the way the show treats the fear of the outdoors and learning to love life after tragedy is pretty sturdy.
Williams' book mines the AI concept for jokes about robots being unable to comprehend copulation – all delivered as deadpan zingers by Laurence Hunt (it has taken me many days and lots of YouTube-ing to work out that, as Robert, he sounds exactly like the guy who does the JML adverts). The performances are generally spot-on; Lindsay Manion's Fran is a likeable and endearing protagonist and delivers a fantastic solo in act two, while Will Taylor as budding romantic fling Ian has both a cracking voice and a superb number about being run over.
The tunes are lovely (there's a really impressive karaoke mashup too) and the show manages to dish out consistent plot beats, especially as we learn more about Fran's life and family. But the book feels a bit rushed – numbers are slotted in with a glib spontaneity and the final third of the show is plowed through at an unnecessarily quick speed. Robert, interestingly enough, sometimes feels a bit periphery in his own show – a sad state of affairs because he's such a fun presence to have. A big-hearted musical that suits the Fringe to a t and, though by no means groundbreaking, proves that O'Driscoll and Williams have a long way to go with what should be lengthy careers. Some solid laughs packed into the hour's runtime.