Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Quebecois performance artist Nathalie Claude for a Q&A about acting with robots for the Toronto Star.

Claude’s show The Salon Automaton opened last week at Buddies in Bad Times, and I was finally able to see it last night. The writing could use some forceful dramaturgy (it’s at least half an hour too long), but you can’t judge this thing by the standards of a normal play. It’s not a normal play. It’s a crazy steampunk meditation on loneliness and mortality that doesn’t make all that much sense, but is never boring. AND THERE ARE ROBOTS. The Automatons of the title are beautiful and jarring, and you really do forget you’re watching robots: they just become characters in the play. And you know that weird feeling you get when an actor onstage looks out into the audience and it feels like they see you? That happened a lot with the Automatons, but with an extra crazy layer of realizing that, no, that performer is NOT looking at you, because that performer is a ROBOT and doesn’t see.

So despite the uneven writing, The Salon Automaton is an insane evening at the theatre, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Crazy Victorian mindfuckery with robots. You can’t call it “good” or “not good” – it’s just crazy and awesome.