One decision makes or breaks a burgeoning relationship at the very start of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s latest play, yet it is the relationship between the girl and her father that is the most touching in this new drama.
The resonances of Ian McDiarmid’s disillusioned former bishop Edward are clear in his driven, idealistic daughter Sophie (Hayley Atwell), even when he is not alongside her as a ghostly presence, as he is in the opening scene. He has strong humanitarian beliefs that were challenged by the orthodoxy of religion. She has the same beliefs challenged by trying to live in a capitalist world with a boyfriend who writes advertising copy for whichever company pays him, regardless of their misdemeanours.
Campbell’s play leaps about through time and space as though it was taking a joyride in the TARDIS, starting in New York on 11 September 2001, before jumping backwards and forwards to gatherings at Edward’s Greek island hideaway and meetings in England; the audience learning what happens both before and after the ultimatum Sophie delivers to her boyfriend.
Campbell, who won a trio of awards for his first play, The Pride, manages to roll huge philosophical questions of belief structures, faith and politics into a story with a beating emotional heart; he can be poignant in one breath and hit the funny bone in the next. While the relationship between Sophie and Kyle Soller’s eager, honest, everyday Tom never has a chance to grow before it is challenged, the one between father and daughter is immediately engaging. It is an unquestioning love, where huge changes cause barely a ripple.
Director Jamie Lloyd, who was previously at the helm of The Pride, brings a simplicity to the production, with barely more than a table or a bed needed to convey location, and keeps the show driving forward even when it is leaping backwards.
If the sign of a good show is that it stays with you long after the curtain has come down, that when you begin to reconsider it and think about it you discover more that you had previously realised, that it leads you one way and then the next just in recollection, then The Faith Machine fits the bill.