Last night I went to see a friend perform in ‘The Machine’ a play written by Matt Charman and directed by Josie Rourke, artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about whether or not I would enjoy a play based on a chess game between a man and machine, but only seconds after the lights went down, all concerns vanished.
Let’s begin with the story:
Garry Kasparov is the world’s greatest chess player and travels to New York to play against Deep Blue – a newly developed ‘super computer’ which had been created by Dr Feng Hsiung – Hsu. The play explores not only the match itself, but the journey each player has taken to get to this crucial moment in their lives. It explores the unique dedication and determination of each character and has you on the edge of your seat, waiting for the outcome of such an intense game of chess.
The design of the set is brilliant and really involves the audience with the action on stage; it is easy to forget you are sat watching a piece of drama rather than being a spectator of the now infamous chess match. From beginning to end I was engrossed with the action happening in front of me and the clever use of camera throughout the live performance really enhanced the experience.
Credit has to go to Hadley Fraser and of course, Francesca Annis who’s on stage relationship really highlighted the significance of this particular event in modern history. It goes without saying that their individual performances were outstanding.
Lastly, what should be commented on is the unique choice of venue, the Campfield Market Hall who’s vast space really complimented both the writing and performance of this piece. I am not sure that this play could work in a traditional theater and the choice of venue was perfect.
So, if you are looking for a great night in the stands and want to witness one of the most poignant moments in the history of both artificial intelligence and chess, then you should go and see this play. It is running as part of Manchester’s International Festival until Sunday 21st July and is also looking forward to playing at Park Avenue Armory, New York 4th – 18th September.
For more information visit: http://www.donmarwarehouse.com/whats-on/the-machine