THE FAITH MACHINE
by Alexi Kaye Campbell.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 1 October 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & 15, 22, 29 Sept 2.30pm.
Audio-described: 1 Oct 2.30pm.
Captioned 28 Sept..
Post-show Talk: 27 Sept.
Runs 2hr 40min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 September.
Well-honed exploration of moral responsibility.
Keeping the faith is something Sophie is determined to do – it’s at the core of her being. Her father, a bishop unable to bear the African church’s objections to homosexuality, has left his daughter the burden of conscience. It’s something that destroys her, and the final testament of both their lives is the heap of weighty books – the cultural continuum – being packed-up at the end.
But it’s not quite an end. Sophie at the start finds her conscience tested when her partner puts mammon before any god, working on a promotion campaign for a pharmaceutical company that effectively performs experiments on African children. Elsewhere, a metaphor of moral responsibility is played out in starkly physical terms, when there’s a need to change her father’s soiled incontinence pad. That’s another test her lover Tom – all too credibly – fails.
Then, in the final scene, Tom meets a survivor of the pharmaceuticals experiment. Their quiet talk has the humanity that makes Campbell’s play, for all its rough edges – the ill-developed partner Tom takes up with, the inconclusive debate over African Christianity and homosexuality, the near-opportunistic shoehorning-in of the Iraq war, and Agatha’s partial quote from The Gospel According to Mark about gaining the world (Campbell misses out the important final words: “and lose his soul?”) – carry conviction. For, behind certainties lies always the sense of contradiction in sacred or secular belief that makes Hayley unwilling to abandon the possibility of faith.
The sense of moral continuity is made corporeal in Jamie Lloyd’s production, as the dead father Edward slowly appears while the lovers quarrel, inserting outloud the thoughts born of his influence in Sophie’s mind; just as she appears, an influence beyond the grave later on.
Ian McDiarmid is natural casting for Edward – perhaps too natural, his trademark querulous intelligence becoming over-declamatory at times. But Bronagh Gallagher’s humorously forceful as a tough survivor of a cruel world, Kyle Soller has energy as the materially successful Tom, surprised by Sophie’s demands, and, above all, Hayley Attwell’s Sophie personifies someone in whom moral purpose has the positive energy of a fundamental condition of life.
Tom: Kyle Soller.
Sophie: Hayley Attwell.
Edward: Ian McDiarmid.
Patrick/Lawrence: Jude Akuwudike.
Tatyana: Bronagh Gallagher.
Sebastian: Alan Westaway.
Annie: Maya Wasowicz.
Agatha: Kezrena James.
Director: Jamie Lloyd.
Designer: Mark Thompson.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound/Music: Alex Baranowski.
Video/Projection: Lorna Heavey.
Assistant director: Jacqui Honess-Martin.
Assistant designer: Ben Davies.