The Paranoids

An interactive animatronics robot exhibits symptoms of paranoia when people step near, for an exhibition in Phoenix Arts Centre, Exeter. Devised in collaboration with Forkbeard Fantasy.

A short play on the subject of paranoia.

Written in body language and performed by androids.

The Cast:

The Insecurity Men - three robots built to ensure human security but who are becoming uncertain about who are the dangerous and who are the vulnerable amongst the people they encounter.

The Set:

The room - the place the Insecurity Men are guarding. The environment is enriched with misleading sounds as the robots run on a continuous Moebius Loop behaviour programme that is affected by the presence of strangers.

The Plot:

Over time, the Insecurity Men begin to realise they are behaving like people and so start to mistrust each other. And as we humans enter the room, so we enter the play, alter its plot and re-arrange the pecking order.


A collaboration with, and from an original idea by, Forkbeard Fantasy, the amazing film and performance organisation

The three life sized figures are constructed with a series of bearing joints. Eight model servo motors power and allow human like movement of the head, eyes and upper torso.
A LanBox DMX control system in the chest of one figure runs a looped programme based on film of three performers exploring paranoid body language. DMX control cables link the other figures so they can all operate in concert.

The LanBox programme orchestrates the direction and speed of the movements the figures make, control the intensity of the LED eyes and trigger the sounds. 

Additionally a camera in the room is linked to motion detecting programme running in the Processing programme on a hidden computer. By way of an Arduino board triggering the LanBox, this interrupts the movement of visitors and causes the figures to react - or seem to.

This is a trial exhibition intended to explore interaction and soak test the mechanism. The exhibition uses frame differencing on the video feed and zones to apportion triggering. 

Future developments may explore face recognition as a way for the figures to react to human movement in the space.


Penny Saunders    Original idea, development, costume
Forkbeard Fantasy

Chris Squire    Development, technology, programming
Impossible Theatre

Pete Gunson    Engineering

Spencer Roberts    Interaction

Tim Britton    Voice, source movement
Forkbeard Fantasy

Chris Britton    Source movement
Forkbeard Fantasy

Robin Thornburn    Source movement
Forkbeard Fantasy

Charlott Diefenthal    Support
Impossible Theatre

Initial research made possible by Animated Exeter and The Arts Council


A store for ideas and thoughts

Thu 21/12/2017

Holocaust Memorial Day 2017
Helping present and to film this involving and stimulating event (Jan)