My Clockwork Heart

Directed by Paula Simm
Unity Theatre, Hope Place
16th - 18th April 2015

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Automoton At The Ready

This play was a change to the advertised programme. Instead of the machinations and breakdown of social etiquette and manners in mythical Custardtown, the nearly capacity crowd were transported to Paris in the early 1790s and a post French Revolution brave new world. Director Paula Simms's take on Patrick Dinneen's 55 minute one act play provided a metaphor for those enigmatic times.

There were only three actors on the sparse stage, which was in a reconfigured space 90° to the normal layout on one side of the auditorium, and with a perimeter gap between two small banks of seats for the actors to navigate in front of viewers wishing to stand.

It was very cosy at times, being so close to the onrushing greasepaint and flashing eyeballs. Lighting Designer Phil Saunders kept us on our toes and in the dark during scene changes, while Sam Kent's rake, a raised action enhancing wedge on stage, also got special mention in the credits.

The action commenced with Trenchant, The Miraculous Mechanical (Paul Duckworth), sat unmoving on a chair on a raised dias, as a recorded soundtrack introduced his inventor Pierre Dupois and his wife Marianne, who designed his face, in a marital squabble over what to do with him. On stage Jacobsen, Herr Director Of The Museum Of Mankind (Andy Roberts) is engaged in conversation with Head Cleaner Mrs Duchamp(Laura Campbell) in a similar fashion.

This evening we were to find out as Rene Descartes philosophised at the time, that automata, (the 'moving parts' rage of the time), like living things are 'organic' machines. This tradition has prompted recent classics of graphic representation like Ridley Scott's Bladerunner emoting replicants. Here on cue, Trenchant cranks into life in his Montpellier Street haunt and begins a stuttering existential learning curve as he is propelled through changing cultures and times.

A lot of the action is predicated on the recorded voice-over, which sees the mechanical marvel propelled into a fractured high society to become the plaything of Marquises and Countesses; this after experiencing the mormundane novelties of new clothes, ice cream and fun fairs and a brush with the unfolding technologies, without any satiation or gratification on his part.

His becomes an endlessly soulless existence, and as the arguing continues around him and the years tick by, his frustration with 'life' becomes insufferable. Yelling 'fuck off' into his mobile phone he mounts the ramparts and after a heartfelt soliloquy throws himself to destruction having had enough of this mortal coil.

The actors were not stretched too much, apart from the 'mechanical' and, although it has been done before, this was a thought provoking evening if the hubbub of post performance chatter in the bar was anything to go by.

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