The blurb on the back of the playtext for The Faith Machine claims that it, "explores the relationship between faith and capitalism and also fundamental questions about the true meaning of love." Blimey, that's a bit ambitious, but at the end of a superb first act I thought Alexi Kaye Campbell might just be able to pull it off. in the first scene a young couple are on the verge of splitting up because she cannot accept his decision to write copy for a pharmaceutical company which has been implicated in unethical drug trials on children in Uganda. Flashback to the girl's father, a liberal bishop, leaving the church but holding on to his version of faith, arguing with an old friend, an African bishop, about the church's repressive attitude towards homosexuality. After the first interval (the second is superfluous) Campbell fails to come up with ethical questions of this magnitude and the play descends into a predictable plot of relationship triangles. It's not helped by Hayley Atwell's failure to completely get under the skin of Sophie who is supposed to be a fearless campaigning journalist, but comes across as a Sloane with a bit of a social conscience. There are other incongruities; an American designer who apparently chooses to wear colours that clash violently and an (admittedly very funny) in-joke about the two black characters, played by the same actor, who appear to look the same to the Ukrainian housekeeper - it would have worked in Clybourne Park but it did not belong in this play. Add in a palpable anti-Americanism and The Faith Machine is a play which needed much more work before being staged - only the first act lived up to the promise. - David Baxter
16 Sep 11
This is one of those thought-provoking stimulating ‘state of the world’ plays that are right up my street! It’s more about morality & ethics than faith in a religious sense, with two central issues explored through the lives of Tom, Sophie and her dad – abandoning your principles for success and the Anglican church attitude to homosexuality.
In three acts each of two scenes, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play spans 13 years but doesn’t do so chronologically. We move between Tom’s first meeting with Sophie’s dad to a later visit when he’s ill, their break-up, their reunion at a friend’s civil partnership, another reunion when they’ve parted from their respective new partners and a final scene which I won’t spoil but provides the last jigsaw piece for you to complete the picture. It is both the story of people’s lives and an examination of issues of our time. It occasionally feels contrived, most notably when you realise Sophie’s ultimatum was rather belated, but it’s very good writing and stimilating debate that I’m still thinking about more than 12 hours later.
Kyle Soller has already impressed at the Young Vic in both The Glass Menagerie and The Government Inspector, and he impresses again here as a gangly, highly strung and clumsy bundle of energy. Hayley Atwell plays Sophie as a much cooler worldly wise moralist. My only criticism is that neither really age the 13 years on stage that they do on the page. Ian McDiarmid has a tough task to pull off the father / bishop struggling with his beliefs and his health, but he does so very well. In a uniformly fine cast, Bronagh Gallagher is terrific as the Ukrainian housekeeper / ex-prostitute who provides most of the play’s many funny moments and Jude Akuwudike as both a Kenyan bishop and a gay Nigerian Brit (with some playfulness about the double-up along the way). Jamie Lloyd’s fine direction gives the play great pace, though I’m not convinced two intervals were necessary.
Though it’s a stimulating debate, it’s also a fine personal story as well as being hugely entertaining. The Royal Court continues to lead the way with contemporary drama that reflects what’s happening in the world and this one complements others like The Heretic, Tribes, Posh, Clybourne Park, Enron and Jerusalem. I loved it.
- Gareth James
07 Sep 11
This play valiantly tries to turn "My Dinner With Andre" into a drama. Religion or not? What is the purpose of life? Does it matter if there isn't one? What should we do with our lives? Is it worth caring about others? What's the price of caring? Excellent pertinent questions, addressed quite cleverly, and lots of food for thought. But whilst the actors (Kyle Soller is endearingly animated, Ian McDiarmid is despairingly emphatic, Haley Atwell is impassioned) are all excellent, the drama about the relationship doesn't really take flight. I think I'll put on my "My Dinner With Andre" DVD. - Steve
04 Sep 11
The last reviewer clearly saw a different production to me. It was certainly not "urgent". A choppy, clinical production which tried unsuccessfully to condense a number of vaguely linked issues into a single dramatic piece. I found the whole piece unaffecting. - A theatre lover
01 Sep 11
An urgent, important piece of writing, raising questions which need to be asked, discussed and answered. An ernest yet very funny at times production, beautifully simple, understated in its approach. Long overdue in a theatrical environment saturated with over-glossy hubris and showy stunt pulling. A must see. - Oliver Anderson
01 Sep 11
Was at the same performance as rds below and have to agree with him - nice acting, shame about the play. - addicted to theatre
31 Aug 11
Too clever by half, well let's say the writer seemed to be trying so with too many corny jokes coupled with an irritating American character who did the dummy Yank thing once too often. The show nearly didn't happen because, yet again, the roof of the Royal Court leaked and in doing so took out the entire lighting rig! Get a bloody roofer in for Christ sake! Anyway they managed to rig up a few lights and left the house lights on and to be honest it really didn't notice. McDiarmid did what he does well, well and the other cast members were doing all they could with a script that needed more work. Not a great play by a mile but it had it's moments and even with the leaking roof and the bland lighting it still managed to make two and a half hours pass by quickly. I'm still not quite sure what the authors intentions are as he touched on so many issues and at such a rate I suspect he didn't know either - hence the unsatisfactory feeling I had leaving the theatre. - rds
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