Deviser, Performer, Stage Designer
An improvised, interactive theatre performance featuring human and AI performers talking about the climate crisis.
Climateprov is a first-of-its-kind interactive theatre performance that provokes a conversation about climate emergency through the humorous, absurd and intriguing interplay between human and AI performers using generative AI and human inputs. As an improvised theatrical performance, Climateprov does not have a fixed storyline or plot, but rather relies on the creativity and spontaneity of the performers to engage the audience in an absurd, and thought-provoking exploration of climate change through generative AI.
The performance itself is interactive in nature and begins by introducing the human performers and the AI to the audience as well as the basic tenets of improvisational theatre. The performers then ask the audience for suggestions like a fictional climate crisis facing their city in the future or a recent news headline they read about climate change, the AI and human performers then improvise together in real-time to craft playful narratives that offer a unique perspective on the subject. Through fun games and story structures, the human performers lead the AI and even, vice versa. At one point the AI takes over completely, leading to some memorable moments on stage. The show is powered by a customised technical application and design built by the artists, that is still being perfected to uncover new possibilities of play.
In improv, the use of audience suggestions (ie an input) to spontaneously create a story (ie an output) has many parallels with how artificial intelligence also functions. Improv’s nature to extrapolate meaning from seemingly unconnected prompts and generate a cohesive story is similar to how a generative AI model also works.
In addition to its focus on climate change, Climateprov also explores the unique interplay between improvisation and AI, which has never been seen before in Indian theatre. The show aims to introduce audiences to this new format of theatre, and many may be new to improvisation itself. Through this combination of traditional theatre techniques with cutting-edge technology, Climateprov seeks to push the boundaries of what is possible in theatre and create an immersive and thought-provoking experience for audiences.
There is also the localisation and contextualization of the scenes presented to the location of the performance. At our work-in-progress shows, the human performers and AI worked together to build scenes around the froth issue in Bellandur lake and even the flooding that happened at Outer Ring Road in Bangalore.
Ultimately, the show encourages audiences to think critically about the role of technology and art in addressing critical issues such as climate change.
The cast members, performers and collaborators in the show include Blessin Varkey (India), Gaurav Singh Nijjer (India), Monica Hirano (Brazil), Marie-Eve Hildebrand (Switzerland), Ranji David (India), Tajinder Singh Dhami (United Kingdom), Tiz Creel (United Kingdom) and an artificial intelligence (AI) performer who doesn't have a name yet but is very excited to join its human co-performers on stage.
The artists first met during the BeFantastic Within Fellowship, a unique AI art program initiated by Bangalore-based tech-art organisation BeFantastic. They collaborated across different timezones and artistic practices over the last year to discover the potential intersections of AI and theatre in the build-up to the show’s premiere. The show premiered at the FutureFantastic Festival, a first-of-its-kind AI and new media arts festival in India featuring performances, installations, workshops and more from 24-26 March 2023. Conceptualised by BeFantastic in partnership with FutureEverything (UK). The festival has been made possible by the generous contribution of its primary supporters, The British Council’s India/UK Together Season of Culture, and, Rohini & Nandan Nilekani Philanthropies.
Humans and AI together on stage is a big thing for me because of the core ideas they represent. An organic (or in this case, a seamless) exchange between the human and the computer is something we’ve been striving towards for the last few decades. On stage, this has been challenged by both tradition (and theatre’s reluctance to embrace technology) and he primacy of the human body and experience over everything else. In this show, its the collaboration between human and AI that make for exceedingly unpredictable and absurd situations which present an alternative approach to addressing the climate crisis. I think I'd like for the audience to walk away from the show with a fresh perspective on the climate crisis. Right now a lot of conversation around this subject use fear-based or anxiety inducing messaging. By employing the use of humour and comedy (and by extension satire and drama), the hope is that people can have a starting point for a conversation about climate crisis. Maybe an heartfelt and quirky story about two lovers separated by the Bellandur lake urges people to engage more laterally and creatively with the issue of lake pollution and froth rather than a news report maybe.
Co-commissioned by BeFantastic and FutureEverything supported by Pro Helvetia New Delhi and presented at the FutureFantastic Festival 2023 supported by The British Council’s India/UK Together Season of Culture, and, Rohini & Nandan Nilekani Philanthropies.
Cast & Crew
Presented by Blessin Varkey (India), Gaurav Singh Nijjer (India), Monica Hirano (Brazil)), Ranji David (India), Tajinder Singh Dhami (United Kingdom), Tiz Creel (United Kingdom) with crew members Sandeep, Likhit, Arjun Madhavankutty and others
Mentored by Jake Elwes (UK), Madhu Nataraj (India), Nicole Seiler (Switzerland) and Björn Lengers (Germany)
Special thanks to Fellows from the BeFantastic Within & Beyond Fellowship; Kamya Ramachandran, Karthika Sakthivel, Karthik KG and the entire BeFantastic Team, Irini Mirena Papadimitriou and the FutureEverything team, Marie-Eve Hildbrand, the staff at RangaShankara and Bangalore International Centre and to everyone else involved in realizing this project.