Mr. Nep?, an entry in the in the Toronto Fringe Festival by KiS Productions currently playing at the St. Vladimir Theatre, is a fun science fiction comedy. What is the measure of a human being in an imaginable future when the brain is interchangeable with technology? In forty minutes of dark comedy, Mr. Nep? gives its audience an idea what it would be like.
Mr. Nep? begins with a video tracking David Nep through his daily routine, full of boredom and porn. When the lights come up, the audience sees Nep on the stage, strapped in a wheelchair and wearing a glowing cap connected by cable to a machine with an ominous countdown. From stage right, drawn by the patient’s grunts, enters Dr. Grunden, an awkwardly polite man in a lab coat who is happy enough to explain Nep’s options. What model brain would Mr. Nep like, to replace his broken old brain? There is only a short time to decide, and no, there is no going back.
The science fiction concept of mind uploading, of using very sensitive electronic devices to copy the information stored in a human brain and then transferring this data to a computer, has been gaining more attention in recent years with advances in brain science. If it were to be achieved, this technology would lend itself to all sorts of interesting questions. How good would a copy have to be for it to count as a person? What about the copied person’s subjective identity? All these issues are touched upon in Mr. Nep?, and more besides.
Mr. Nep?‘s actors are more than up to the challenge before them. Kevin Procter is perfectly believable as Mr. Nep, an ordinary man who finds himself in a terrifying and almost unbelievable situation. I was particularly impressed by Stephen B. Andrews’ performance as Dr. Grunden, portraying this man as a lab-coated expert with the power of life and death over Mr. Nep, creating an unforgettable image of a genial man with just enough of an edge to evoke the menacing appeal of the mad scientist.
The contribution to the play of the quietly funny video prologue, of Mr. Nep as filmed by David Gibson, is also noteworthy.
My only issues with the play relate to ideas I would like the script, by Peter Cook, to have explored in greater detail. What would it mean to live in a world where mind uploading was scarcely more complicated than a hip replacement? What would it mean to our ideals of free will and self-improvement if, as Dr. Grunden suggests, uploaded minds could have negative traits edited out? Mr. Nep? touches on these issues, but I wanted more.
Mr. Nep? is a fun short-running play that uses art to instruct. It introduces its audience to questions we might well be forced to answer, perhaps even within the lifetime of some of the people reading this review. Fringe-goers who want a taste of the future should see Mr. Nep?.
- Mr. Nep? is playing until July 10 at the St. Vladimir Theatre. (620 Spadina Avenue)
- Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance, and can be bought online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
- Content Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- July 1st at 3:15 pm
- July 2nd at 9:15 pm
- July 3rd at 7:00 pm
- July 5th at 1:00 pm
- July 7th at 11:30 pm
- July 8th at 7:30 pm
- July 10th at 1:00 pm
Photo of Kevin Procter provided by the company.