Editor KIERAN CORCORAN predicts that this play will be suddenly killed by being bad.
Corpus Playroom, 7-11th February, 9.30pm, £5-6
Directed by Lawrence Bowles
Wouldn’t it be exciting if we knew how we were going to die? Wouldn’t it provide perfect material for a lateshow at Corpus? Nope.
The play wonders what might happen if a stupid metal box could give you a cryptic idea of your death – would people live more recklessly, or become jibbering wrecks? And the question surely on everyone’s lips: what would happen to the life insurance salesmen?
It makes a great pitch, but when it comes to actually doing the play, Machine of Death is nowhere near as clever or interesting as I’d hoped.
This death-prediction-comes-ironically-true idea has been peddled since before people discovered clothes that weren’t togas, so to make anything good out of it you need to do something new. It also helps if your message of doom arrives more… excitingly.
But lack of originality and lame props weren’t the real problem. Machine of Death has no consistent narrative; it’s actually a kind of sketch show based around this fundamental what-if, but does nothing to let you know it (though perhaps the drawn-out and unnecessary scene changes should’ve tipped me off). People entered looking, sounding and acting the same as in the previous scene, but were playing different people. This is bloody disorientating at first.
The actors were alright; given that the play was shit there’s only so much you can do. However it was a bit annoying that the characters stayed so similar across scenes (except for in the “mad scientist” one, but that’s easy to ham away at), which interfered with my magic ability to guess when everybody’s suddenly a different person.
But as well as being a confusing sketch collection, Machine is an unfunny one. The only type of joke on show is “now that’s an ironic/funny death you’ll be having,” which is fine once or twice, but can’t hold up for an hour. Also the sketches were so short that they couldn’t help but be very superficial in their exploration of the titular machine’s effect on modern lives, making every scene even more similar and bland. No amount of skilled acting can salvage that.
If Machine of Death had been based on a good idea, or had been based on an OK idea but well-executed, it could have been a good play. Neither of these things happened, and as a result it never really rises above being a curiosity that probably isn’t worth paying to see.