Last week, a production of E.M. Forster’s 1909 novel The Machine Stops headed to York Theatre Royal. For those who don’t know, Forster’s novel tells the tale of a dystopian future Earth, where humans live below the surface of the planet and rely on what is known as ‘the machine’ for everything, whilst living in small, hexagonal shaped rooms for the majority of their lives.
By Jane Howkins
This production of The Machine Stops was written by Neil Duffield, directed by Juliet Forster and performed by Pilot Theatre, who have previously worked with York Theatre Royal on successful co-productions such as In Fog and Falling Snow and Blood + Chocolate. Like their past work, this version of Forster’s novel was of an exceptional quality.
The audience were kept firmly on the edge of their seats throughout the performance, with parts of the play producing both gasps and laughter in equal measures. One moment within the production (in which one of the main characters Kuno eloquently describes leaving the underground world and reaching the surface of the Earth to his mother) also created feelings of awe and forlornness over the beauty of the surface world and the sad fact that the majority of humans were stuck underground away from such a beautiful world, before Kuno was dragged back below the surface by the machine in a very scary moment within the play. Only the greatest pieces of art manage to create such vast feelings of emotion within human beings, so in that sense The Machine Stops was largely a success.
The way it was performed was also very interesting, with just a small set consisting of a few metal bars and electrical cords making up the shape of the machine. Those acting within the play (only four actors were involved, with Karl Queensborough as Kuno, and Caroline Gruber as his mother) were also extremely talented, with lots of acrobatics being performed over the metal bars that made up the set (particularly from Maria Gray and Gareth Aled who represented the machine), and despite having a relatively simple set, it was clear how much effort had gone into the production. A very interesting and enjoyable performance, and one that is well worth a watch!
The Machine Stops is being performed at York Theatre Royal from Friday 13 May to Saturday 4 June 2016