Review: The Machine Stops

SCI-FI STORY: The Machine Stops at York Theatre Royal. PICTURE: BEN BENTLEY
SCI-FI STORY: The Machine Stops at York Theatre Royal. PICTURE: BEN BENTLEY
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York Theatre Royal

Machines rule the world. No need for human contact or interaction. The Machine will take care of your every need 24/7.

This vision of a dystopian world becomes more real every day with an ever-increasing reliance on technology in our lives. Such a world seems all too possible, if not necessarily desirable, these days. But EM Forster’s short story must have been a bit of a shocker when first published in 1909. One of the many strengths of this brilliantly conceived York Theatre Royal and Pilot co-production from director Juliet Forster and writer Neil Duffield is that it doesn’t look like a bad episode of Star Trek. Rhys Jarman’s set portrays The Machine itself – a huge metal climbing frame on which two acrobatic performers (Maria Gray and Adam Slynn) slither and slide, curl around and hang from in a 90-minute workout. The ‘human’ drama finds Ricky Butt’s technologically-imprisoned Vashti learning of her rebel son Kuno’s (Rohan Nedd) attempt to break free of the Machine to reach the Earth’s surface. The other masterstroke of the production is the music, a first theatre commission for electronic musicians JohnFoxx from Ultravox and Benge that perfectly adds another layer to a finely-tuned production.

To February 18, then touring to Doncaster Cast (March 21-22), Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield (March 28-29).