Big Telly Theatre company are back with a new title to add to their highly commended virtual theatre series. Yesterday they enthralled me for an hour via zoom with The Machine Stops. It’s very strange to watch a dystopian theatre plot about technology controlling the populist through technology, in this case Zoom, the irony is not lost on me and neither is it lost on the Big Telly Team.

As I’ve previously discussed Big Telly Theatre have naturally evolved into zoom theatre with all the creativity and skills that it needs (read more here). They have opened theatre up to everyone in this new format it is accessible and highly polished. This production has almost a steampunk theme with fabulous underground sets thanks to some amazing technical wizardry and the entire cast have beautiful costumes and masks.

Based on E.M Forsters Sci-fi fantasy The Machine Stops and performed on the 50th anniversary of his death. The premise of the tale is very on the nose to todays current circumstances, people are unable to go outside and can only be in contact with loved ones through the machine, suppressed by the rules set by the Central Committee. If they dare venture outside they will need ventilation it’s surreal to think this tale was penned in 1909 and not 2020!

Big Telly’s modern adaptation is entertaining, topical and reflective in one short hour they hit on topics which are on the forefront of our minds right now, with nods to the Covid pandemic (testing anyone with cold symptoms), reproductive rights (although I love the gender swap to male reproductive rights), homelessness, protest, euthanasia and fixed voting polls.

But the most touching element of all is the connection of generations. Through the characters Vashti (played by Anna Healy) a mother who has embraced the machine way of life and Kuno (played by Gary Crossan) her son, who wants to explore an alternative, we see two generations fighting for what is best. We see the advancement and considerations of Generation Z but also how valuable the older generation are in the fight to preserve the world.

The Machine is a friend of ideas and the enemy of superstition and religion. We are to move forward with technology and not look back but the moral of the tale is to have real freedom, is not to forget where we have come from, history and lessons learned make humanity grow. Convictions, protests and love are needed for us to safeguard the world for future generations.

Another moving but highly entertaining piece with a very hard working ensemble who make green screens and monologues look like childs play! This production is a rollercoaster of excitement and anticipation but with lots of light relief and audience participation. I particularly enjoyed the hysterical hypnotist who had us on our feet as chickens ( played by Christina Nelson) and the very talented musician who could play two recorders in her nose ( a character played by Nicky Harley). Again a fantastic ensemble piece with every player working together to make a masterpiece to the eye for the viewer, pouring tea and passing props. Well done to all involved!

Emer D xx

Unfortunately this run in collaboration with the Riverside Theatre finished last night but keep an eye on bigtelly.com and riversidetheatre.org.uk for further opportunities to be in a virtual audience!