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The Machine Stops
Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
14 Mar 2017
It is incredible to think that, when the original EM Forster short story on which this play is based was published in 1909, we didn’t have any of the methods of mass communication that today, we carry in our pockets.
We all know the frustration we feel when our internet service is interrupted. We cannot talk to our friends, do our banking, buy shoes or have a rant about some minor personal injustice. What if that interruption lasted more that a few hours, what if the technology stopped?
This cleverly crafted production, which uses acrobatics as much as drama, tells the tale of Vashti (Ricky Butt) and her son Kuno (Rohan Nedd) who live underground on opposite side of the world. Quite why the surface of the earth has been abandoned is not made clear, not that it matters.
As Vashti prepares her lecture on Australian music to be delivered to a virtual audience (yes, we’d call that a podcast) her son wants her to visit him in person. Naturally she is far too busy doing… well, if EM Forster had the words he would have said perhaps ‘status updates’.
The awkwardness of the characters towards each other, when Vashti finally ventures out and travels to visit her son, is quite worrying in a world where today we have concerns about our own – or indeed our children’s, behaviour when faced with real people as opposed to social media friends.
The use of actors Maria Gray (Machine #1) and Adam Slynn (Machine #2), who slither and slide around the infrastructure which supports the room in a most athletic way, is mesmerising – and how Ms Gray hung upside down by her knees for so long had many in the audience concerned for her welfare!
This is a thought provoking piece, well produced and well presented. It raises concerns and questions about the time we live in and yet is a story that is one hundred and eight years old. This is a Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal production adapted by Neil Duffield and directed by Juliet Forester. The show is on a national tour and can been seen for one more night in Bury and at the weekend at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester.
14 – 15 Mar – Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
17 – 18 Mar – Mercury Theatre, Colchester
21 – 22 Mar – Cast, Doncaster
28 – 29 Mar – Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
30 March – Northen Stage, Newcastle
4 – 8 April – Belgrade Theatre, Coventry