Review: The Faith Machine, Royal Court Theatre

This review was originally written for The Notebook

Rating: 4/5 

 ‘Nihilism is the victory of the status quo.’

Tom works in advertising. It’s a temporary thing; a means to an end. But when he begins to be seduced by the glamour of the industry, cosying up to corrupt pharmaceuticals giants instead of – as originally planned – ‘saving the world’ as a writer, his highly-principled, journalist girlfriend, Sophie, presents him with an ultimatum.

Kyle Soller gives an assured and entertaining performance as stubborn, nervy New Yorker, Tom, and Hayley Atwell as the equally wilful, idealistic Sophie is likable and earnest, without being (too) annoying. Ian McDiarmid makes a passionate and mischievous Edward, Sophie’s eccentric, brilliant father – a revolutionary bishop who has left the church in disgust with its attitude towards homosexuality – and, as his fabulously blunt Russian maid, Bronagh Gallagher is a joy, her gruffness and comic timing spot on.

Alexi Kaye Campbell’s third play covers a number of lofty issues: the reconciliation of ethics with our current economic system, the meaning of morality in today’s world, the dangers of fundamentalism – and not just of the religious kind. At the heart of the play is the question: who are you? Who do you choose to be by the way in which you choose to live?

Sounds a mite heavy, perhaps, but there are lots of laughs in this three-hour three-acter. And it’s three hours that pass pretty quickly. The play keeps things varied and fresh, making several shifts – temporally as well as geographically – spanning a period of 13 years and visiting both sides of the Atlantic, as well as a remote island in the Aegean.

The third act is a little overlong, and it’s a shame director Jamie Lloyd felt compelled to bookend the play with corny slow-motion sequences complete with swelling strings and dramatic backlighting – the triteness of which undermine what is otherwise an enjoyable, well-executed production.

Imparting some profound truths with much heart, it’s a celebration of love and human kindness and of living thoughtfully, of the importance of faith – where ‘faith’ doesn’t necessarily have theological implications; after all, ‘in a life with no meaning, everything is acceptable, or laughable, or weightless, and everything is condoned.’

The Faith Machine runs until 1 October at Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS. For tickets, call 020 7565 5000 or book online.



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