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Slowly losing my Faith Machine

The_faith_machine_royal_court-121 As any writer knows, endings are notoriously difficult. At the first interval (there are two) in Alexi Kaye Campbell's new play at the Royal Court, Faith Machine, I tweeted that I was very much enjoying the play but was interested to see where it was going.

The problem is that after 2 hours and 50 minutes it didn't really go anywhere, it just sort of fizzled out in a cheesy cul de sac. Which is a shame because I really enjoyed most of the journey along the way.

Campbell is a fine writer. His observations are spot on, he is witty and he is clever but this examination of faith versus capitalism feels like a broad brush doesn't really challenge or surprise as it should.

It's set in New York, Greece and London and centres on Sophie (Hayley Atwell) who leaves her American boyfriend Tom (Kyle Soller) because he is taking a job with a pharmaceutical company who's record on ethics is dubious. Her father Edward (Ian McDiarmid) is a Church of England Bishop losing his faith in the church because of its attitude towards gays. He's retiring in the family's holiday home on a small Greek Island with his house keeper, a former Ukrainian prostitute Tatyana (Bronagh Gallagher).

In the first scene we see Sophie and Tom breaking up and the play subsequently jumps back and forth to the years pre and post the split.

As I said, the journey is enjoyable. There are some wonderfully funny and poignant scenes but ultimately it doesn't lead you anywhere interesting. The final scene where we meet Agatha, an African girl (Kezrena James) who was helped by Sophie feels extraneous and unnecessarily cheesy.

The principles Atwell, Soller and McDiarmid put in solid performances. Gallagher feels under used as Tatyana - just couldn't get enough of her broken English and blunt phraseology.

There are many elements to enjoy about Faith Machine but as a whole it feels slightly unsatisfactory. I'm going to give it three stars.

Alternative reviews:

Michael Billington in the Guardian admired its expanse and gave it four stars.

Charles Spencer in The Telegraph believes it shows Campbell's talent but not his best work and gives it three stars.


Two easy direct connections: Hayley Atwell played Mr W's sister in Brideshead Revisited and Ian McDiarmid played Merlin to his Arthur in a Radio 4 play.

As a little extra bonus, Andrew Scott was in the Royal Court bar beforehand and he starred with Mr W in Cock.

Faith Machine production of Hayley Atwell and Kyle Soller by Pete Jones Productions and you can view more at the website