WORDS BY LAMYA RAHMAN
Directed by first-time theatre directors Ann Ding and Shon Ho, RoboPoC is an absurdist, race-conscious, sci-fi sketch show that takes a cyberpunk classic and makes it its own.
The show opens with Richard Johnson, the dastardly villain of the night. Played by the talented Sophia Chung, Jackson is an over-the-top caricature of a neoliberal entrepreneur: inspirational instead of austere; farcically good instead of openly exploitative.
His diabolical mission to appeal to diversity, gain ‘PC points’ and launch Project Woke (World Operation Keynesian Equity program) is absolutely bizarre, and sets the stage for RoboPoC’s uniquely unapologetic and outlandish universe. In this show, everyday experiences of people of colour - the bigoted politicians, the endless stereotypes, the blithe infighting - are lampooned to the highest point of ludicracy, like a rubber band stretched to the limit. As if to say, ‘hey, don’t you see how ridiculous this race stuff can be?’
Whilst a risky approach, it brought amusing rewards. Annie Zhang, Geneve Bullo and Adam Torres shone in a satirical talk show lambasting the Bananas in Pyjamas for heinous yellowface. Special mention must go to the dedicated costuming, which brought laughter before the skit even began.
Natali Caro was also a standout in her impersonation of Pauline Hanson: accent, inflections, rhetoric and all, and Elijah Abraham easily stole the show in the second act as a ‘where-do-you-come-from?’ wolf unable to resist howling bigotry under the power of the full moon. The versatile performances of Mandy Chen and Angela Prendergast also deserve recognition, carrying the show through some of the lesser political sketches.
However, in a show so eccentric, missteps are inevitable. It was unclear what the hospital AV was meant to be besides very, very confusing; and a harmless joke about durian felt predictable to a crowd already used to RoboPoC’s unhinged comedy. Yet these shortcomings are few, and easily forgivable.
RoboPoC is a show that does not attempt to be subtle. Even the through line - usually invisible in revues - was action-filled and plot propelling. And the ending was confidently hopeful. Most sci-fi influenced work deals with racial politics by ignoring them - RoboPoC is proudly not that kind of science fiction.
In a student comedy scene so unafraid to throw punches but so hesitant to let people into the ring - and in the science fiction genre which rests so heavily on isolation but contains so little on those isolated - RoboPoC comes as a welcome intrusion, a clever subversion of events. It is not only a sketch show, it is a mark on history. An incomprehensible feat for a society created only a few weeks ago.
Truly, nothing’s gonna stop them now.