Christopher Walker reviews Marjorie Prime at the Menier Chocolate Factory

The wonderful Menier Chocolate Factory always tends to have its finger on the pulse.

So it is no surprise that just when everyone is talking about Artificial Intelligence, or AI, it offers us a drama tackling that very subject.

Marjorie Prime, imagines a world where technology allows consumers to purchase an interactive hologram of a lost loved one – known as a “prime.”

This imitates that dead individual, using AI to become more like them as it talks with others.

The first thing to say, is that it is testament to the breakneck speed at which technology is advancing that Jordan Harrison set this play written in 2013 in the 2060’s, imagining it would take fifty years to see this happen.

Anne Reid (Marjorie) – credit Manuel Harlan

And yet here we are with ChatGPT all over the news, and the California company HereafterAI offering something that seems very similar, if currently screen based.

The second point which comes to mind is why bother? Is this really a good way to cope with grief?

The characters in this piece certainly struggle with that issue themselves.

Wonderful veteran Anne Reid (of Years and Years), plays Marjorie who in the last years of her life seeks solace in the company of a prime called Walter, who is the embodiment of her husband when he was young and good looking (a perfectly cast Richard Fleesham).

Marjorie’s daughter, the rather bolshie Tess (played well by Nancy Carroll), is not convinced by this arrangement, while her husband Jon, Tony Jayawardena, loves it.

Richard Fleeshman (Walter), Anne Reid (Marjorie) – credit Manuel Harlan

And yet when Marjorie dies, Tess buys her own prime of her dead mother, in a very sad attempt to prolong their combative relationship.

Perhaps also seeking illumination on issues she never had the courage to ask her real mother.

Grief is a difficult subject in the theatre, and I would not recommend this piece to anyone who is still suffering its rawest phase, and who might be likely to be triggered.

I was. After six years of loss.

And yet this thoughtful piece asks some difficult questions, and offers a glimpse of the answers.


Picture: Richard Fleeshman (Walter), Anne Reid (Marjorie) – credit Manuel Harlan 

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