QLD Aussie Theatre writer Jemma Lanyon had the opportunity to chat with playwright Richard Jordan about his newest play, Machina (pronounced Mack-een-a, not Machine-a), which just finished a highly successful premiere season playing as part of La Boite’s Indie program.
A few years ago, Richard decided to take a hiatus from Facebook and avoid what he termed ‘press-releases from friends’ that made him feel miserable about his own life. When he rejoined, mainly for professional reasons, he found that he was once again connected. ‘It was like I didn’t exist while I was offline’, he says. (Even being firmly entrenched in the Brisbane theatre scene, he missed the Matilda Awards since everyone assumed he had seen the Facebook event page). The whole experience gave him an idea for a play that would encourage people to question what their “relationship with technology”.
“It can be addictive. It can be a drug. It can do your head in,” he tells me.
As part of his PhD in Creative Writing, Richard began work. The play had many names, but he eventually settled on Machina.
“The title comes from the theatrical phrase deus ex machina, the god from the machine”, he explains.
“The Internet has become the new religion. It is a mystical ether above our heads that people turn to for answers.”
[pull_left]The Internet has become the new religion. It is a mystical ether above our heads that people turn to for answers[/pull_left
]It would be a mistake though, to assume this play is science-fiction. Instead, it is about what is happening to the characters in the here-and-now. Richard set out to explore “what intimacy looks like in a digital age” and write “a post-human play – an experiment.” He wanted Machina to resemble the online experience, and with so many story threads to follow, you do feel a little like many tabs are open on stage – just as intended.
When asked about the aesthetic of the play, Richard is quick to credit director Catarina Hebbard, lighting and set designer Andrew Haden, and costume designer Susan Marquet. However, he does add:
“I wanted it to be a low-tech production. I wanted to do a digital play in an analogue way”
– an interesting juxtaposition that serves to highlight the humanness of the characters and their relationships.
Having such a thought provoking and ernest look at our digital culture, one could mistakenly think this is a heavy or somewhat sterile play. However, it is littered with humour and an entertaining night out; but those familiar with his work would expect nothing less.
Machina played at The Loft Theatre in the Kelvin Grove Cultural Precinct from 8 – 24 May.