THEATRE REVIEW: The Machine Stops ★★★★

The Machine Stops
The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Saturday 8th April 2017

Based on the originally published 1909 short science fiction story by E. M.Forster, The Machine Stops tells the tale of those who hibernate underneath the surface of the Earth, after losing the ability to live, with those who resurface having to wear apparatus to explore the abandoned world. Below the surface lives Vashti, a woman who lives in a basic Hexagonal room with an armchair and a book, which is a manual to the machine, the support system that lives underneath, provides fresh air, and communicates with the humans through an automated voice. On the opposite side of the world lives her son, Kuno, who is desperate to see his mother as he wants to venture upon the surface of the Earth.

Written back in 1909, the story predicted new technology like instant messaging and the internet, and watching the production on stage really made me appreciate how much director Juliet Forster creates this dystopian world in a story so far back in our history predicting the wonders of today's world. The performances of stage were captivating from all involved, from Ricky Butt as Vashti, Rohan Nedd as her son Kuno, and finally Maria Gray and Adam Slynn as the metallic machine. The story kept me on the edge of my seat, and the music composed by John Foxx and Benge really felt atmospheric to the whole piece, especially when giving the depth of the characters travelling from one side of the world to another.

A segment which especially had me in awre was the moment Kuno described how he escaped the machine to travel to the surface of the Earth, because the movement direction used in the piece, as he climbed the frames of the machine, you really felt like you could imagine the endless tunnels and darkened areas underground leading the surface, and especially felt for the character of Kuno. Credit must be given also to Maria Gray and Adam Slynn who were stunning as the machine and their various other character, as they spoke in sync as the machine, and the flexibility of their movements as they shifted their bodies all around the steel frame of the hexagonal machine with controlled acrobatics.  The endless hours of rehearsals they must have endured really seemed to have paid off as they were a real highlight to the production.

Overall, The Machine Stops is a brilliant adaptation of a 1909 story that really captures your imagination in a production carried by a stunning cast, as well as being beautifully scored and directed by a creative team.


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