Jack Gogarty takes a look at the second of the two Italia Conti Theatre Academy shows, and is in no way disappointed.
This year, the level of acting in the Italia Conti Edinburgh plays has been absolutely outstanding. This play is a particularly difficult piece to decide to put on at the Fringe, but director Chris White has managed to create such a dark and interesting atmosphere, you completely forget you are even watching a play.
The play is an odd piece to start with, but the vision of the second year students from Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts has managed to turn Sophie Treadwell’s 1920s setting into a seedy and stylised tale of a woman who tries to get on with her life in the male dominated world she lives in. It follows her from the proposal of marriage, throughout the marriage and then through a court case. It exposes the roles women took in that time and how Helen, the lead female role, coped with her inability to understand real love.
The most impressive part of this entire concept is that all the other characters are shown to the audience in the way that Helen views them. It’s like a cross between a Tim Burton film and 'Belleville Rendez-Vous'. All the negatives about the other characters are massively exaggerated to the point that the audience are repulsed just as Helen is. A particular example of this was in the performance given by Dario Coates, who plays Helen’s large, overbearing and extremely greasy boss. He manages to take a real life character body, and stretch it to the point where you still believe everything that he says and does, but are completely involved in his warped portrayal, to the point where I actually found myself curling my toes at some of his more intimate scenes.
The stylised musical numbers and general relationships between the ensemble are extremely tight and very impressive. The accents are all very sharp, and the piece flows beautifully whilst easily conveying the passing of time and the shifting of setting. The music played isn’t your typical background music, but a more harsh, staccato echo that fills the whole theatre with an eerie atmosphere. Some of the most interesting uses of music are during the office scene, in which they create a beat and melody using office tools and they’re own words.
The three actresses who play Helen in each part of her life, Jordan Baker, Sophie Bond and Catherine Lamb, do a fantastic job at getting the raw emotional truth through in their major scenes, and then keeping the level high as they pass the baton on to the next part of the story. Catherine in particular during her final scenes does an absolutely fantastic job at convincing you she is a woman in that extreme frame of mind.
This play has some of the best acting performances I’ve seen on stage for some time, combined beautifully with some of the best directing out there. Definitely not a show to be missed, Machinal is showing at a perfect time to start off your day of watching shows, and will set the bar for the rest of the day very high.
‘Machinal’ will be shown at The Space on Niddry Street (Venue 9) from the 20th – 25th August and runs for one hour and twenty five minutes.
Morning shows: 10:45am, 20th, 22nd and 24th (£5 tickets, £3 concessions)
Lunchtime shows: 12:20pm, 21st, 23rd, 25th (£5 tickets, £3 concessions)
For more information and book yourself some tickets, please go to http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/machinal