Starweaver depicts a striking and disturbing parallel to the battles we are facing today, but offers overriding hope that reminds us of our power as individuals, and the strength in collective humanity.

In 2149 there is a privatised sky, anonymity is a myth, and the boundary between human life and artificial intelligence is non-existent. It is a world where seeing the stars is no longer free, and only some have faith in their mere existence.

We follow Cato (played by Ellen Graham), an AI engineer turned revolutionary who finds herself welcomed into a community of like-minded people. Together, they are determined to fight a system built against them, embracing the chaos that comes with revolution.

Graham stars alongside Jamie Hornsby, who plays the role of Cassius, the first character to welcome Cato into the rebel community. They have a beautiful familiarity and tenderness as comrades on stage, and their performances as a duo, and individually, are dynamic and moving.

Together, Graham and Hornsby are the playwrights as well as the founders of Adelaide independent theatre company Madness of Two, and won the Australian Writers’ Guild’s David Williamson Prize in 2021 with their previous play Claire Della and the Moon. What they have produced with their new work is a captivating, subtle and layered script that addresses existential threats to humanity but incorporates humour and the beauty in human life. This light and shade is uncovered further in the performances, under the direction of Shannon Rush.

A large on-stage screen is a key design element of Starweaver. Photo: Jamois

The ensemble is strong, with Maeve Hook having a particularly compelling presence as Terra, the fearless leader of the revolution. Mark Saturno voices the pre-recorded character of Kit Donovan, the business tycoon who runs this world in 2149, and is the epitome a villain with a God-like complex, produced out of capitalism.

The design and visual effects team is led by designer Kathryn Sproul and technical director Mark Oakley, and their work does wonders in bringing this sci-fi, technology-rich story to life. The set’s main feature is a massive screen that arcs behind the performers on stage. It features everything from motion-capture and video-game technology to CGI, and Rush’s direction in building a relationship between the actors and the technology is sensational.

Thoughtful and innovative lighting and sound take the production to another level, allowing the audience to feel fully immersed in the world created on stage.

Starweaver presents what is possibly an audience member’s worst nightmare, but it also evolves into a beacon of hope. Right now, at a time when we don’t know the future of AI, gaps in equality are turning into canyons, and wars and conflicts fill our news cycles, Starweaver encourages us to lean more than ever into what makes us human: our memories, our relationships, and our faith in a more beautiful world than this one.

Starweaver is being presented at The Void at Flinders University Drama Centre until July 6 as part of State Theatre Company SA’s Stateside season.

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