Melbourne Fringe: The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow

4 stars

Review by Brodie Paparella

To find a play that is as entertaining as it is poignant, charming as it is clever, is rare these days, but Boutique Theatre have a true gem in The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow. We meet the protagonist Jenny Marcus as she tries to negotiate the recovery of a robot-proxy of herself designed to help her locate her biological mother. Tegan Jones as Real Jenny carries the show with great sincerity and strength. Kim Ko as Robot Jenny executes artificial intelligence flawlessly.

We are introduced to a broad cast of characters who live within and around Jenny’s domestic universe, outside of which her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and agoraphobia prevent her from treading, much to the frustration of her career-crazy mother (Angelique Malcolm) and understanding father (Lawre Fildes). Although she has a friend in Todd (Roby Favretto), who is basically all our high-school crushes rolled into one, Jenny finds most authenticity within her room and routine, as well as those she interacts with online (all played by Sam Lavery).

Commendations to directors Emma Caldwell and Samantha Cunningham for a great job enclosing so much action and interaction into a small space – in itself a good sensory device to empathise with Jenny’s spatial needs – but the dynamics of the play unfortunately lack the precision to stop some moments from feeling cramped; the story and performances truly deserve a bigger space, which might give some of the actors more freedom to commit to their characterisation and some of the more raw emotion.

Commendations to Favretto for absolutely nailing it, to Lavery for peerless comedic chops, and both Jones’ for doing pure justice to the conditions, including genius, she engendered real and necessary empathy for.

The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow is playing as part of Melbourne Fringe at Brunswick Art Space from 17th September – 3rd October. Get tickets here: