Review: Machine (Eclective Productions)

rsz_10245432_622290321179288_1955330957718505088_nVenue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Apr 16 – 20, 2014
Playwright: Melissa Lee Speyer
Director: Rachel Chant
Actors: Lucy Heffernan, David Jackson

Theatre review
Suicide often finds its way into art. It is the most direct contemplation on the value and meaning of life, when questioning “to be or not to be”. Melissa Lee Speyer’s Machine is a pessimistic appraisal of life, and a work that embodies great sensitivity and beauty in its melancholy.

Rachel Scane channels that sense of resignation into her set design.It is basic and cold, but elegantly executed. Together with lighting designer Benjamin Brockman’s work, the space is cleverly transformed into a purgatory of sorts, with a sense of ethereality and impending doom.

Machine‘s story of suicide features Lucy Heffernan as Christine, and David Jackson as her guardian angel. The structure of the play interestingly places focus on the angel who takes us through events in Christine’s life, and her subsequent decision to end it. He also gives the impression from early on, that she is safe in his hands, even in the midst of her depression. As a result, the stakes are never high in the show. The assurance he provides, detaches us from Christine’s predicament, and even though Heffernan’s performance is committed and strong, we do not connect with her suffering. We know that Christine is being watched over, regardless of how things may end. Jackson has conviction in his acting, but the lack of experience and confidence is evident. It is noteworthy however, that Jackson’s smaller subsidiary roles are performed well when he takes the form of Christine’s encounters.

The Angel seems to be the problem. If it is the intention of the artists to create a work that is emotionally involving, we need more access to Christine. Her pain is universal, but we need to feel closer for the drama to work. She has much to divulge, but her Angel shields too much for her, and from us. The girl needs to stand alone.

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