Cover to the programme of the Royal National Theatre's 1993 production
|Written by||Sophie Treadwell|
|Date premiered||7 September 1928|
|Place premiered||Broadway, New York City|
|Setting||An office; a flat; a hotel; a hospital; a speakeasy; a furnished room; a drawing room; a court room; a prison; in the dark|
Machinal is a play written by American playwright and journalist Sophie Treadwell, inspired by the real life case of convicted and executed murderer Ruth Snyder. Its 1928 Broadway première, directed by Arthur Hopkins, is considered one of the highpoints of Expressionist theatre on the American stage. It was included in Burns Mantle's The Best Plays of 1928-1929.
The story involves Helen, whose entire life has been dictated to her. She follows the rituals that society expects of a woman, however resistant she may feel about them, and subsequently marries her boss, whom she finds repulsive. After having a baby with him, followed by an affair with a younger man who fuels her lust for life, she is driven to murder her husband. She is found guilty of the crime and is executed in an electric chair.
The play opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre on September 7, 1928 and closed on November 24, 1928 after 91 performances. The original production is notable for featuring Clark Gable a few years before he became a movie star. It was his Broadway debut and he received good notices. The original scenic design was by Robert Edmond Jones.
In Britain, the play was first performed under the title The Life Machine in 1931.
The play was revived by the Royal National Theatre in London in a production directed by Stephen Daldry. It opened on 15 October 1993 with Fiona Shaw as the Young Woman, Ciarán Hinds as the Man, and John Woodvine as the Husband. The scenic design, which included a large metal grid that moved into different positions for the play's different scenes, was by Ian MacNeil, costumes were by Clare Mitchell, lighting design was by Rick Fisher, with music by Stephen Warbeck.
A revival opens on Broadway in a Roundabout Theatre production at the American Airlines Theatre on December 20, 2013 (previews), officially on January 16, 2014. Direction is by Lyndsey Turner, with a cast that features Rebecca Hall, Michael Cumpsty, Suzanne Bertish and Morgan Spector.
Awards and nominations
- 1994 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Revival
- Brooks, By J. "The Play." New York Times 18. Sep 08 1928.
- Treadwell (1993, viii).
- From the programme to the production.
- Treadwell (1993, v).
- Gioia, MIchael. "Suzanne Bertish, Michael Cumpsty, Morgan Spector Will Join Rebecca Hall in Machinal; Complete Broadway Cast Announced" playbill.com, October 22, 2013
- Treadwell, Sophie. 1993. Machinal. London: Nick Hern Books and Royal National Theatre, London. ISBN 1-85459-211-4.