A group of young patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) have proven themselves instrumental in the programming and daring rescue of a friendly and very intelligent robot from some mean scientists over the course of a month in A Robot Awakes.
Together with GOSH and KIT Theatre, the Unicorn has had a blast helping to coordinate this immersive storytelling project for dialysis patients on the same ward. Beginning in November and involving actors, producers, film support and creative input from GOSH Young People’s Forum, the children were kind enough to help out Tom, an inventor, looking for patients to advise as they program the personality and consciousness of a new robot AI. Young patients at GOSH were the obvious choice for this, with high levels of empathy and time to help.
Tom made contact with the patients through covert means: secret puzzles and codes challenged the young people to prove they have what it takes for the job, and that they understand the top secret, highly confidential nature of the robot mission.
The three understood the remit perfectly: whether strange symbols appearing on the windows of the ward, locked boxes on their bedside tables, Rosetta stone codes, or mysterious walkie talkies, they were able to work together to piece together the puzzles and access messages via tape recorder from Tom, updating them on the robot’s progress.
They worked hard to educate the robot, explaining to her how it feels to be a human (“it feels wonderful to have the sun on your face” and supplying her with the very finest jokes (“Knock knock? Who’s there? Chicken Butt. Ha you said Chicken Butt!). Patients also taught the Robot what Art is, writing poems, songs and pictures which were uploaded into her mind.They decided to name the robot Botty Posey Star - or BoPoStar for short. Thanks to all their efforts, she became the first robot to actually wake up, becoming conscious just like a person!
But BoPoStar’s consciousness attracted the attention of some rival, slightly dodgy, scientists, who took her away from Tom to study her further. BoPoStar was able to send the patients an emergency video message, through which BoPoStar was able to let them know that she wasn’t hurt, but was being subjected to some “itchy tests” and wanted to be free. The patients planned some excellent distractions as cover for her escape.
When the time came, at noon on a Friday in early December when all the children were on the ward, BoPoStar sent them a Zoom link to spy on the action in the laboratory where she was being held live, and were helped to make calls and send emails to wreak helpful havoc for BoPoStar. The mean scientists were nonplussed by pizzas arriving which they hadn’t ordered, threats of arrest from the military, and phone calls with tempting, distracting offers of prize money and a better, competing robot held somewhere else! The Unicorn’s own Engagement Producer, Shanti Sarkar, even made a cameo as the Mayor, intent on inspecting the scientists’ work, all according to the patients’ plan…
The patients watched live as BoPoStar made a dash for it amongst all the chaos, calling in with false leads on her whereabouts as the scientists searched for her. And she didn’t leave for her new life out in the world without paying a final visit to the ward, and thanking them for all of their help. A few days later, patients received this final message from their robot friend.
Asked for their favourite part of the adventure, one of the children said “That she escaped and that she woke up, that she can walk, talk, she has hair. But mostly, that she dances.”
Written and Directed by Tom Bowtell
Puzzle Boxes designed by Kirsty Harris
BottyPoseyStar played by Lucia Tong
Robot Costume designed by Lydia Reed
Puzzle Consultant: Minkette
Lab Escape co-director: Elliott Hall
Dodgy Scientists: Eleanor Kettleton, Alex Donnachie, Ed Shock, Elliott Hall
Bear in a Box: Gabi Macpherson
Mayor: Shanti Sarkar
With thanks to GOSH Arts, KIT Theatre and the GOSH Young Forum.