It was a play that gave us the word “robot” – and now an android is the performer in a groundbreaking new production. But can it make us laugh – and cry?

A figure sits alone on stage, dressed in comfy jumper and trousers, one leg crossed over the other. He slowly moves his hands and turns his head. But this sole performer in Uncanny Valley, by theatre company Rimini Protokoll, is not human. It is a lifelike animatronic model of the German writer Thomas Melle.

The show’s director, Stefan Kaegi, had seen animatronics used in museums, where he found there was not sufficient time for what he calls the “empathy mechanism” to kick in. But he wondered what would happen if the robot became a performer, “someone with whom we start to identify”.

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