Who doesn’t love a good love story? Two people meet, fall in love, fall out of love, and if they’re lucky, find their way back to each other. If that’s your cup of tea, then how about a love story set against the backdrop of technophobia, anti-capitalism and class divides? Autopilot has taken the typical tropes of modern dating and made them far more interesting. I will be thinking about Rowan and Nic’s chemistry on stage together for the rest of the fringe.
Written by Olivier nominated writer Ben Norris, Autopilot faces us with a couple who could not be more different. Rowan is a well-off-ish, geospatial engineer, who constructs maps for big companies. Whereas Nic is a freelance illustrator, who, although may have some impressive commissions under her belt, is still broke, like most freelancers. And she’s not even on Patreon...get it together, Nic! Rowan came from very little and is working her way to the top, whereas Nic has come from a lot and is refusing to use it for good, bad – anything really – for the sake of her leftist, anti-capitalist ideals.
By the grace of TFL, and that god-awful Elizabeth line, the two of them meet and their connection is instantaneous. After being together for a while in the bliss of each other’s witty conversation, back rubs and hot baths, Rowan gets a job that will put her in the front seat (ironically), of the first marketable self-driven cars. For technophobe girlfriend Nic, this is a problem. As their relationship begins to crumble, and hidden truths are revealed, can Rowan and Nic survive life’s big ethical conundrum? Can Nic put her views aside? Can Rowan shake her prejudices?
This is a love story for modern times that is so intimate in its delivery you cannot help but feel invested. The cast’s connection was genuine and sparks were flying for all to see. Autopilot is thought provoking and makes you question your morality. It forces you to ponder whether you’d be willing to change your principles, or at least put them in the backseat, for the sake of your partner? It captures that moment of contemplation when we are trying to work out whether we can truly let someone in enough to rely on them wholeheartedly, using the self-driving car as a perfect metaphor. Autopilot was a really refreshing display of modern love. In a story with a tech backdrop, having a same-sex couple take centre stage, who were both perfectly cast for the role by the way, was lovely to see.
However, and I hate to end on a bad note, Autopilot wasn’t perfect. Was there chemistry? Absolutely. Was it funny, witty and relatable? Sure, but the light changes to signal going from past to present and present to past – as Autopilot is not linear – were slightly annoying at times and hard to keep up with. They made some scenes feel really rushed and it was hard to know whether what was happening was happening now or then.
Luckily for the cast of Autopilot, there’s an easy solution to this… slow it down. I know you only have an hour but taking a few more seconds to breathe or a few more seconds to allow the audience to contemplate the end of each scene would have made a world of difference.
Also it would be great if someone could tell me whether, Nowan? Ric? I like Nowan – stayed together or not and the answer better be a yes. I’m now too invested in this fictional couple and I simply want them both to thrive.
Thank you Ben Norris for gifting me with my first show of this year's fringe. I highly recommend your presence at Autopilot which is playing everyday at Pleasance Forth at 13:35.
Read our interview with Ben Norris here.
For tickets and more information, visit edfringe.com