Theatre Review - 'Faith Machine'

Posted on: 08 September 2011 by Alexander Hay

Laurence Green covers Alexei Kaye Campbell's thought-provoking exploration of faith and capitalism - touching on some big issues as 9/11 looms large

You've gotta have Faith (Machine), with Ian McDiarmid and Jude Akuwudike

The relationship between faith and capitalism is explored by Alexei Kaye Campbell in his ambitious new drama The Faith Machine (Royal Court Theatre) directed by Jamie Lloyd.

The play opens in New York on 9/11, just before the planes flew into the Twin Towers, with our heroine Sophie, the idealistic daughter of a liberal Anglican bishop, issuing her American boyfriend Tom with an ultimatum. If he accepts an advertising account with a corrupt pharmaceutical company that has been treating Africans like human guinea pigs in disastrous drugs trials, she will leave him. He goes ahead and they break off their relationship. But a bond still exists between them and is never really broken.

This is a ruminative piece, which considers whether hope is still possible in a world so bitterly divided by religion, political ideology and unequality of wealth. Campbell depicts a series of collision between competing ethics and agendas. But, although the writing is studded with smart lines, it does not avoid being preachy and contrived. Furthermore the play tries to address too many weighty issues such as consumerism, terrorism, gay relationships and the Church. Nevertheless Campbell’s wit and compassion makes the love story at the centre of the work both touching and believable, as the story moves backwards and forwards in time as the spiritual issues of our age impact on the characters.

Director Jamie Lloyd draws fine performances from his well chosen cast. Hayley Atwell brings warmth and an alluring sexuality as Sophie, Ian McDiarmid, who maintains the true Christian message that “love is the most subversive power in the world”, plays her anguished father with fiery determination and beady intelligence while Kyle Soller impresses as the edgy, uncertain Tom who realises too late that he has lost his moral compass.

This is in all a flawed but thought-provoking play that still manages to maintain the interest for nearly three hours.

Runs until October 1

Box office: 020 7565 5000

By Laurence Green

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Alexander Hay

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