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PL-AI: At the intersection of experimental theatre and Artificial Intelligence

A convincing showcase for a new technology despite its occasional stumbling blocks


Civic Theatre, Tallaght

When you invite artificial intelligence to spice up your evening of theatre, you’re never quite sure where it will take you, but reciting a Shakespearean sonnet about Enoch Burke trapped outside a school was not where I thought it would go.

“Fair school unlock thy gates and let me in!”

I’ll say no more.

Last Thursday night, the Civic Theatre was treated to a free experimental stage show where Chat GPT – an AI chatbot taking the world by storm – generated elaborate scripts on the spot, with the help of the audience. Choosing a play’s genre, setting, characters and plot points, the audience were to ultimately guide the direction of the play in real time. Watch out West End.


Using suitably bizarre audience suggestions from young children right up to grandparents, we start by creating an inspiring poem about Tallaght in the style of Seamus Heaney; a poem about the devil appearing at the Hellfire Club at 3am when there was also a rave; and one about black holes forming on earth on the style of Spike Milligan. Chaos ensued and pretty soon the audience copped on to the fun we would have over the next 90 minutes. On to theatre next.

Credit is due for the actors who put themselves at the mercy of the audience after just a day and a half of rehearsals. They just about kept up with the AI shenanigans

The audience shouts out suggestions for the computer, and within moments we are graced with a comical scene featuring a break-up in a retirement home in the style of the Godfather. Even the cast themselves struggled to hold back their giggles.

Chat GTP’s ability to spontaneously generate plot twists was remarkable, such as a Steve Irwin impersonator getting a restraining order from the Irwin family, before a member of the Irwin family crashes a truck into a building in an act of revenge. You’d have to be there.

The main performance of the evening was to be a 13-scene black comedy/murder mystery following a talentless wannabe opera singer who finds herself at the centre of a series of murders. The style is switched up every few scenes via audience suggestions, an impressive feat of improv from the actors. Styles included: Oscar Wilde, Martin McDonagh (“There’s been a murder” in a thick Connemara accent was a hoot), Quentin Tarantino, a spaghetti western and a melodramatic soap opera conclusion – which flowed nicely as faux East Enders.

A Samuel Beckett-esque soliloquy performed like some sort of East Enders gangster was a fitting end to a ridiculous production. The Civic took little time to return a standing ovation.

The fledgling theatrical genre – PL-AI being the first of its kind in Ireland – undoubtedly lends itself to comedy. The juxtaposition of familiar characters in outlandish situations is the route of the evening’s excitement.

Credit is due for the actors who put themselves at the mercy of the audience after just a day and a half of rehearsals. They just about kept up with the AI shenanigans – even if at times they lost their place in the never-before-seen script.

The evening staggered at times when the cast and AI were out of step, and occasionally Chat GTP would repeat the same scene twice, but as an experiment in itself, PL-AI was a convincing showcase for the technology.

PL-AI doesn’t beat around the Bush on what it is: an experiment. Minor hiccups aside, the mind boggles at the possibilities.

Conor Capplis

Conor Capplis

Conor Capplis is a journalist with the Irish Times Group