Colla Voce Theatre Company made a splash in 2017 with its National Student Drama Festival Edinburgh Award-winning musical Buried. The company aims to tell unconventional stories through musical theatre that would normally escape this genre. You and I fits the bill by telling a humorous yet poignant story inspired by science fiction, adeptly dealing with complicated emotions of sadness and loneliness.
During the initial few minutes we meet Fran, played by Lindsay Manion, as well as her judgmental roommates, played by Cara Withers and Martha Furnival, who also take on the roles of several other characters during the performance. In this initial scene, we see sadness within Fran, as she appears lonely and buries herself in headphones. She seems focused internally and dealing with a wider issue. Suddenly and unexpectedly for Fran, the door bell rings and a package arrives. The package contains an android with artificial intelligence named Robert, played by Laurence Hunt.
Whilst Robert’s main purpose is protecting Fran, he still begins as mainly a blank canvas with only a few core functions. Using a familiar story arc, Fran begins to teach Robert how to be human. This creates hilarious interactions and very funny observations about modern life and the information available on the internet. These interactions could be found in most android-meets-human stories. However, this borrowing should not be penalised too much as Hunt uses stiff emotions, a soulless blank stare, and a monotone voice to turn in a flawless performance. Locked away in her apartment, Robert becomes an integral part of her life, but also a bit of an inconvenience as Fran seeks to reconnect with an old flame. As Robert begins to become more human, he becomes ready to step into the real world, which includes the highlight of the show at a karaoke bar.
The songs themselves contain clever lyrics, performed by a supremely talented ensemble cast. The backing band and score meet the strong performance of the cast, and provide beautiful melodies that intensify the messages of the production. While Robert’s education in humanity is largely light-hearted, the story peppers in themes of loss alongside a love story. The story reaches a climax that ties these themes together well, and leaves the audience not only massaging their cheeks from smiling, but also sniffling through tears of sadness.