Girl in the Machine

Apr 6 2017 | By More

★★★☆☆    Prophetic

Traverse Theatre: Mon 3 – Sat 22 April 2017
Review By: Caitlin Powell

The Traverse Theatre’s production of Girl in the Machine is a quick march through our potential future towards a technology-induced apocalypse.

Set in our near-future, Stef Smith’s play tells of married couple Polly (Rosalind Sydney) and Owen (Michael Dylan) whose world, and marriage, falls apart after the headset ‘Black Box’ begins to take over their lives

Michael Dylan and Rosalind Sydney. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

Plainly put, this is a warning for all internet junkies. Black Box begins as a simple relaxation process but ends with its owners uploading their consciousness onto the internet systems.

Unfortunately, the production is too close to being just another dystopian play. Instead of creating a twist in this genre, it simply perpetuates an overdone idea that technology may one day take over all aspects of our lives.

Stef Smith’s script demands intensity and high energy but it falls flat when the chemistry, on which a two-man show relies, falters. The choreography used to convey time passing is precise. At various moments in the production, Sydney runs across the room in loops, suggesting the constant passing of time. Yet, without a naturalistic passion between the two, the emotion behind most of their movements is lost.

That is not to say that this production does not face the future of technology head on. The set is highly effective in showing the distinction between nature and technology. All the action occurs in a transport container filled with a geometric carpet and forest wallpaper around the door to the outside world. In combining the two styles in one space, designer Neil Warmington physically shows the internal conflict in all of us between our natural and technological instincts.

existential questioning

Orla O’Loughlin’s direction allows every line to draw attention – whether it is a comic throw-away about death or the existential questioning of life and whether one can live forever or, if living needs death to exist as a concept. The delivery of such lines from Sydney and Dylan seems effortless as they flip from love to distress to bereavement.

Michael Dylan and Rosalind Sydney. Pic Mihaela Bodlovic

Sydney thrives during her monologues as Polly wavers in and out of the digital world; her delivery touches on the style of performance and slam poetry, finding a rhythm in the words as she sways under the hypnotic influence of technology.

In contrast, Owen’s depiction of a struggling husband fighting against his wife’s addiction is heart-wrenching. His haranguing as he begs for children intermittently during the performance, and the hopeless attempts to coerce his wife out of bed and the line “reality is a kiss…the double heartbeat from your touch” resonate later as Sydney slips away from the world’s reality while Owen tries to keep her here.

Owen’s fight to keep Polly in our reality calls into question whether our world and the ‘blissful’ digital world can exist at the same time. We possess profiles on the internet and the leap to soul-like existence isn’t entirely inconceivable.

The production does not possess the momentum needed to hit us emotionally, but the issue is one we are most familiar with and the strength of Sydney and Owen’s performances is very effective.

This is a play that projects a horrifying future for us as we greedily evolve with our beloved technology.

Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Monday 3 – Saturday 22 April 2017
Previews: Mon 3 (7pm)/Tue 4 (7.30pm).
Evenings: Tue – Sat: 7.30pm, Matinees Wed 12, Sat 15, Sat 22: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details:

The play text is available through Amazon:

Rosalind Sydney Pic Mihaela Bodlovic


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