Portraying several disturbing, existential, and poignant thoughts about humanity massively engulfed by technology, Marjorie Prime is set in a futuristic world that doesn’t seem so far. Written by Jordan Harrison and directed by Dominic Dromgoole, it is an important piece of theatre, more relevant than ever before.
The play opens with Marjorie (Anne Reid), 88, born in 1977, suffering from dementia, conversing with an android 30-something version of her husband Walter (Richard Fleeshman). As the story progresses and the characters die, they are replaced with their humanoid versions programmed by those who are alive. At the heart of this play are questions about identity, memory, and life-death paraphernalia- “Living is a distraction from death.”
Dramaturgically brilliant, packed with multiple powerful themes, and highly verbose with sharp and potent text, it is no surprise that it was nominated for Pulitzer Prize in 2014. Dromgoole’s direction and staging highlight the text and the thematic value of the play, keeping movement to a minimum.
The world of the play is well articulated with details from the future embedded not only in the text but also in the modern and chic set design by Jonathan Fensom, lighted bright and warm by Emma Chapman. The presence of the Primes in dim light placed as a gadget in the house, like a remote control or television, adds cohesion to the brilliant staging and set work.
Reid’s Marjorie is finely performed with easy-breezy comic timing. Nancy Carroll’s Tess is grief stricken, guilty and emotionally fragile, deteriorating further in her mental health as the play progresses. She portrays a believably turbulent relationship with the prime version of her father, suspicious of humanoids. Tony Jayawardena’s Jon is a doting and loving husband, adding comfort and compassion in an otherwise heavy play. Fleeshman’s physicality, and that of others, as humanoids is on-point, graciously available for service but emotionally empty.
While the play garners an eerie response from the audience, it does not completely immerse me in its world, always seeming to maintain a guard, thus failing to create an absolute and wholesome sense of empathy for the characters.
Eventually, what IS real? Memory is enmeshed with the current reality of emotions and perspectives. The ending is particularly powerful maximising the eeriness of humanoids. This is a must-watch production running at Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre till 6th May 2023. https://www.menierchocolatefactory.com/Online/default.asp
Reviewer: Khushboo Shah
Reviewed: 16th March 2023
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★