Theatre Review: The Machine Stops

Words: Alex Kuster
Thursday 23 February 2017
reading time: min, words

The tale of a dystopia where a single machine rules humanity - perhaps we'd better back off the iPods before it becomes a prophesy...


The Machine Stops takes place in a dystopian world where people have moved underground, lost their sense of will and surrender to an all doing machine. It tells the tale of a mother and son. The mother, Vashi (played by Ricky Butt) is completely subservient to the machine, never questioning it, whereas her rebel son, Kuno (Rohan Nedd), wishes to discover the world above ground and reconnect with his ancestors.

The play starts with Vashi in her chair, speaking with all her friends without having to move an inch, with all of her needs at the touch of a button - all too reminiscent of our modern-day reliance on the iPhone, perhaps? She then receives a call from Kuno requesting she visit him across the world. The plot unfolds with Kuno uncovering problems within the Machine, and shows Vashi’s denial as she becomes more and more desperate to not doubt the Machine.

The set design is a sort of jungle gym frame, which the Machine operates within and on. It is brilliantly portrayed by two acrobatic actors (Maria Gray and Gareth Aled) acting as the cogs within; they scuttle all over the frame, mimicking the different components and creating a really thought provoking contrast to Vashi’s stillness. When the clock ticks, their arms and legs act as the rotating hands. When components begin to break down, their language becomes disjointed and repetitive. They use multiple coloured cables to portray different requests and issues within the Machine. It truly is a beautiful, creative sight.

The cast of four is fantastic and so engaging; John Foxx’s dynamic music matches their actions so perfectly, from wild jungle sounds whilst the Machine cogs somersault around, to touching, end of the world lulls bringing a mother and son’s values back together at long last.

What is most moving is that the original story was written in 1909, yet it is so potent to us today- ahem, this one is to all you couch potatoes out there. The plot is hauntingly acurate and so ahead of its time.

All too Orwellian, it is a short and disturbingly real production of EM Forester’s original novella.


The Machine Stops was at Lakeside Arts on Monday 20 February 2017.

Lakeside Arts

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