Human+, written, directed, and produced by independent theatre-maker Khairul Kamsani, ran at the KC Arts Centre from 30 August to 3 September 2017.
Human+ is about the controversial relationship between technology and human beings. The play revolves around Kara (Shu Yi Ching) who finds herself in a car crash and subsequently fitted with a “Head Drive,” a device that connects directly to her brain stem and translates her thoughts and feelings into accessible data. Doctors Amble (Jo Tan) and McCaine (Prem John) at the pharmaceutical company Akamaicore oversee the process with the help of Jovian (Mitchell Lagos). However when McCaine decides to secretly cross ethical boundaries, questions are raised and doubts come along, together with serious consequences for everyone.
The play tries to explore interesting themes and topics that are especially relevant to today’s world of savvy technology. When the James Cameron movie The Terminator premiered in 1984, it was seen as being ahead of its time and provoked a lot of conversations on how dependent humans are on machines and science. Today, more than 30 years later, that subject is even more germane with the popularity of smartphones and social media and how constantly plugged-in the world is to the internet.
Unfortunately these fascinating observations and themes were not effectively presented in Human+. First, a lot of the dialogue was too expository and preachy – hence it was hard to truly engage with the given material. Second, when riveting lines were spoken, not much time was given to the audience to take in and think about what was said, before the next intriguing thought was thrown at us. This was especially so in the second half of the play.
Kamsani clearly has researched this subject in depth and he has a lot to say via his characters, but it would’ve been better to pace the insights and revelations so they were a bit more separated, and also to employ fewer words for a more captivating and pithier effect.
In addition, the use of recordings of McCaine and Akamai (Remesh Panicker) as a way to advance the plot was not the most engaging of methods. The sessions when Akamai was talking were atmospherically lighted, but once again the speeches were too lengthy and didactic.
The writing aside, Kamsani was able to bring out some good acting from his actors, especially Ching and Tan. Although Ching’s mic seemed to not work all the time on the day I was there, as a lot of her words weren’t audible, her acting was natural and enticing even when she was in the background. Tan, who is a seasoned actor, brought her usual confidence and ability to completely disappear into her character, and gave a very believable performance.
So whilst the script needs some major tweaks, one has to admire Kamsani who has chosen to produce this original work on a professional rather than at an amateur level, and chosen to do it independently, serving as the production’s writer, director, and producer. He is also keen on revising his old pieces for the better. Guts to jump into the big ring, and an openness to reinvent when needed – those are all the reasons one needs to eagerly look out for Kamsani’s next move.