Body of Glass (UK Title)
(akw. He, She and It USA title)
by Marge Piercy

Janet Whitaker (director)
Michelene Wandor (adaptor)
Eleanor Bron (Malkah)
Penny Downie (Shira)
Ciaran Hinds (Yod)
John Bennett (Avram)
Nathaniel Parker (Gadi)
Paola Dionisotti (Riva)
Susan Sheridan (Ari)

Review of adapted Book / Play
When thinking about writing a description on the plot of this play, one might consider to take some valium, because there's literally nothing that's missing here. Let's see. We have a science-fiction novel, that's also about Jewish myths, artificial intelligence, networks, cyborgs and future concepts of lifestyle, family, love-life and technical developments. Plus an all surrounding "web-like" IT structure that's called the "base", a virtual sphere where all human and artificial intelligence is able to meet, to exchange and to manipulate. Life without this "base" is impossible. Human beings have a direct connection to this "base", which is a sort of socket in their heads. They work there, but they can also fulfil their imaginary needs there. Plus: the base is also a dangerous place to be. The so-called "corporates" attack important developers there.

A cyberfeministic tale - maybe?

Well where to start - the future isn't that bright. There was a war going on in 2017 that left the planet as a contaminated hell. Some large cities are protected under artificial domes that allow their citizens to live an almost normal life. The rest of civilisation vegetates in a global slum that's afflicted with famine and plagues. Most of these spheres are controlled by a few super-corporations. Information has become a commodity, more precious than gold or diamonds. Only few free towns, like Tikva (in Hebrew Tikva means hope), allow an individual lifestyle. Tikva is a Jewish town with a unique culture, products and people. This mixture unearths inventors, researchers, developers, artists, poets and creative people, who produce new "information" all the time. Tikva is one of the creative forces in this future world, and the corporates try everything to get what they believe is precious information. One might say that there's a war going on, but not the conventional type. The corporations need the input from the free entrepreneurs. Actually they are trying to control and influence them. If they'd succeed, the future will be very dull, one might conclude this train of thought.


The story itself is set in 2059. Our heroine is newly divorced Shira Shipman. She has lost the custody of her son Ari to her ex-husband Josh, who is living in one of the corporate spheres. Shira returns to Tikva, the city where Malka (her grandma) raised her. Shira has a new job there. Avram (this Hebrew name means father of mankind), a distant relative, has just built his tenth cyborg creation, Yod. The names of Avrams creations come from the Hebrew alphabet. This one is called Yod, because it's the tenth letter. Strage thing that strikes me now, pronouncing Yod, it almost sounds like God. His real son, Gadi, seems to know nothing about his father's ideas. Being a scientist Avram has his problems with his creative, but somewhat unfit-for-life son Gadi. His middle-name would be something like: hey-let's-have-a-good-time. He is an atmo-designer, creates virtual hideaways and suffers from a burn-out syndrome. He's more an "artist" than a working man and was Shira's first lover. Gadi refuses the thought of having children. He's still trying to persuade her into the virtual worlds of yesterday, but Shira resists him, we will get to know why in a short while.

What has "it" got that I don't have?

She first thinks of Yod as "it" and as a fascinating piece of machinery or human ingenuity. Shira is an unusual woman for her time, she delivered her son in a natural way. This is an absolute no-no in 2050+. But she likes to think that some things should be left to mother nature. Naturally she is very reluctant to make Yod even more perfect than he already is. Yod looks and feels like a human being, but he lacks some "education", especially when it comes to human-like behaviour. His programming has been done my Malkah. Shira teaches him about humans, their hopes and dreams and her (female!) way of understanding the world. Yod learns something about community and family. He is learning fast. He's a very attractive and nice man. Shira feels more for this creature than she likes. After a short while of reluctance from Shira's side (hey, he is an artificial life-form, right?) they start having a love-affair (well, Shira's got her implants, too) and finally Yod is helping her to recover Ari from his father (what a true soul and he likes children, too). He even becomes a stepfather to Shari's son (he's brilliant, eh?). The perfect man is an android that's been educated by women - hear ye! hear ye!

But mainly Yod is conceived as a weapon, created by Avram (a male, right?) to protect Tikva. And this becomes very evident when the cyborg kills Josh while trying to free Ari (not so perfect, but within his male programmed parameters). The corporates are forcing Avram to give his creation to them. Yod decides to kill himself (stainless hero) and take Avram with him (blame yourself, eh?) in order to prevent a creation of an eleventh cyborg even before Tikva is able to hand him over to the corporates (how thoughtful). Romance ended, tragically. Sort of Love Story mixed with A.I.?

Cherchez la femme vs. I,Robot ?

The book plays with a lot of ideas, e.g. the Golem myth, a clay-made monster that's said to have been created in 16th century Prague by a rabbi (Judah Loew) in order to protect the Jewish community. Of course Yod is that Golem, but a wiser and soulful one. Let's say he's basically a human without his free will to do exactly what he wants. In this last letter to Shari he expresses his thoughts: no one should be created to be a weapon. A weapon shouldn't have a conscience. He has regrets and doubts, no weapon should be like that, if it should think at all. My idea: a thinking weapon has to go nuts in no time. A soldier has feelings, but then he's able to decide if he wants to obey.

Blame it on poor (male) programming

He is none of the above and he decides to kill himself and his "father" to get rid of this dilemma as well as his fear that the corporates might find out how he was created. Yod does what Golem did: the artificial creature ultimately protects a small endangered community. The book does take some ideas from I, Robot and there are parallels to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? And yup, there are ideas of SF-feminism all over the place as well as old-fashioned "back to nature" postulates. All in all it has a tendency to display a positive utopia, but not one I'd like to live in.

Review of Nat's reading
Nat is playing Gadi, the atmo-designer. There are few (too few) scenes there, but the things I got to listen to were very, well yes, tempting. He portrays a guy who really doesn't care about getting the mitten. His only meaning in life seems to flirt with Shira and to try to be as persuasive as he possibly can be. His voice coos like a love-sick turtle dove. Perfect job for that character. I would have loved listening to him playing Yod, but unfortunately this dream did not come true. A nice play, but not one of the must-haves among Nat's audio-works.


Unpublished
Radio Play aired 1995 on BBC 4

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