Computer says show*

When you really enjoy the theatre and haven’t been for nearly 2 years due to a (not so little) thing like a rapidly rampaging toddler, you jump at the chance of a spare ticket from a friend. However, I’ll admit though that when I checked out the website for Beyond the Fence I wasn’t expecting much. Y’see it features considerable material from Android Lloyd Webber. In other words, it’s an experiment in musical theatre sponsored by Sky Arts, conceived by and substantially crafted by computer.

Briefly summarised, the premise is that music and computer bods put their heads together, fed in the scores, plots and lyrics of successful musicals into various big data programmes which analysed them and out churned a set of instructions on what a successful new musical would look and sound like. Yes, really. Anyone else picturing a version of Frankenstein’s monster twitching on the operation table with the green legs of Elphaba from Wicked, a sharp-suited arm clutching a Bugsy Malone splurge gun and the DA quiff of Danny from Grease?

I’m happy to report that it was better than my expectations though its strengths lay more in the scenes and songs that showcased the various eccentric women portrayed as campaigning at Greenham Common in 1982/83. The glee of one character gliding around the stage on roller skates was particularly infectious. Other parts veered a bit too close to worthy.

So, is there a role for ‘big data’ to play in the future of the arts? You can get a clearer idea by visiting the show (limited season until 5th March) and watching Computer Says Show which on 3rd March.

Lesley Crooks, Publishing Manager

* I’d like to state for the record and for the sake of my annoyed pride that during the first half of the show I came up with this pun, I couldn’t bear to not include it here.

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