Home > Reviews > Theatre > Theatre: The implants, robots, dance, song, sex and sci-fi of “Broken Sex Doll”
Photo by Bettina Strauss

Photo by Bettina Strauss

By Sarah Higgins

Broken Sex Doll
Written and directed by Andy Thompson
The Cultch and Virtual Stage (Vancouver) 
The Cultch’s York Theatre

Once you come to the energetic ending of Virtual Stage Vancouver’s Broken Sex Doll, you realize that the title misled you. The sex doll is fine, it’s the world around her that’s broken. Under the direction of Andy Thompson (writer/producer) and Anton Lipovetsky (music), the show explores this broken world that resembles our own and seeks redemption for it. And amidst song, dance and wit, they find it.

Set in 2136, the futuristic world of Broken Sex Doll is effectively communicated through song and technology. Acknowledging straight off the influence of Aldous Huxley’s “feelie” movies from Brave New World, Thompson takes that and other sci-fi and pop culture references and deftly builds them into a believable and engaging setting for what is, essentially, a love story. Lipovetsky’s well-crafted songs strengthen this world. Technologically, projections (designed by Corwin Ferguson) are used to explain and then enhance the world, and the comedy, onstage. The lighting (Jeff Harrison) and sound (Brian Linds) work well together in maintaining and supporting the show’s aesthetic.

The cast is consistently strong, and leading man Benjamin Elliott is captivating. His balance of comedy and pathos in his portrayal of Daryl is unfailingly engaging. The ensemble, particularly the women (Alex Gullason, Adriana Simone Ravalli and Ranae Miller) are hilarious and assured. The comedy (the humour) itself is hard-hitting, impressively sustained for the entire two hours. Even repeated jokes pay off each time—especially Daryl’s inability to swear. The comedy also plays on musical theatre tropes and traditions to hilarious effect. Like the pathetic fallacy (phallus-y?) of the digital rain that is projected while Daryl sings his sad song and asks the passing umbrellas, “Who the fu…. am I?”; or the musical joke of the film-noir soundtrack that runs under the villain/hero encounter in Act II. The humour also plays off the theatricality (just watch for the tape measure gun).

Broken Sex Doll brilliantly and seamlessly integrates dance (choreographed by The Contingency Plan) into how they tell this story. Through movement, the actors become part of the world-building: as a vehicle, as a faceless crowd, as robots. The show also nods to cinema through slow-motion movements.

The moral of this story is familiar—that love is one way to fix a broken world. The comedy pushes the show into satire when it’s revealed that (spoiler alert), this time it’s robots teaching humans how to love. The comedy does fall short of satire in one key moment, however—the sexual assault scene. The gender roles are reversed, but the humour in the scene rests too heavily on the reality of the assault to allow the comedy to alter it in a thought-provoking way. There is a satirical story here, it just needs to be pushed farther. You know. Broken.

Implants, robots, dance, song and sex and sci-fi, all wrapped up with a hysterical, satirical bow. There’s a reason why The Cultch brought this show back for another run, so go see Broken Sex Doll. It’s fu…in’ awesome.

Broken Sex Doll runs at The Cultch’s York Theatre, Nov 12-22. Click here for tickets and more information.

Sarah Higgins is into her second year of her Creative Writing Masters of Fine Arts at UBC. She’s foremost a playwright, and has had work produced at both edges of the country—from Little Mountain Lion Productions in Vancouver to a recent show in the Halifax Fringe festival. This is her first foray into theatre reviews, and she is excited to work with the talented writers at PRISM international.