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Review of Dirty Little Machine at the Vault Festival

Dirty Little Machine - Vault Festival 2018
Dirty Little Machine – Vault Festival 2018

Dirty Little Machine which is playing as part of The Vaults Festival in Waterloo is billed as “A filthy postmodern fable about fantasies, feminism and other things beginning with F”; if only the piece was a well written as that advertising blurb – it would have a been a whole lot better. If you want a word that sums up Dirty Little Machine that begins with F, it’s flawed and that’s with a capital F.

When Jane (played by Kate Handford) was 13 she read a porn novel about an uncle seducing his from then on it fuelled her sexual fantasies so much so that she decided to find the most desperate, perverted man she could and date him so she went out and found self-proclaimed sexual deviant and wannabe conceptual artist Dick (now there’s a subtle hint) and called him The Weasel (more subtlety) and so begins the so called plot of Dirty Little Machine.

To say I was confused by Zut Alors Theatre’s production of Miranda Huba’s 2011 play would be an understatement. It could be seen as a feminism diatribe against men who love to get off on porn although Jane herself does exactly that. Or is it an attack on porn itself – if so it totally misses its target. Is about the battle of the sexes – possibly. Or is it a mixture of all these things and more. If so, there’s a scattergun approach to the play that falls between all those stools.

The production itself is incredibly unfocused and meanders in tone throughout. Sometimes it’s very real and other times totally surreal and I’m not sure where the join between the two comes. Were Jane and Dick making real porn films or was that just a fantasy? Jane starts to read passages from the porn novel using a microphone but gives that up about three quarters of the way through – why?

The play is presented in the round and there’s a film projected on a wall when Jane is reading from the book but it’s only on one wall and it was the one behind where I was sitting so whilst I got a glimpse of the close-up of an eye when I craned my neck to see it, I have no idea what else was going on and even why it was there if half the audience couldn’t view it. Also, if this was an attack on the porn industry why was there a euphemistic reference to the uncle’s “large, throbbing red tie” when the rest of the dialogue was raw and wasn’t afraid of using the F and C words? Also, why when they were talking about sex toys, did they use kids toys?

This production is just a bit of a mess all round. Kate Handford is very good as Jane but I got increasing annoyed as the evening went on (and on and on) by Ben Mann’s constant use of his “duh” expression – where was the light and shade?

When this was written in 2011, it might have been seen to have been brave in tackling the taboo subject of the porn industry, but time has moved on and in 2018 it seems just a little passé. The dictionary defines “pretentious” as “attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed” which to me sums up Dirty Little Machine perfectly.

2 gold stars

Review by Alan Fitter

The UK premiere of Miranda Huba’s postmodern fable about feminism, fantasies and other things beginning with F.

When Jane was 13, she read an old dirty porn novel about an uncle seducing his niece. It turned her on immensely and became the template for her future fantasies. In ‘Dirty Little Machine’, Jane decides to find the most fucked up degenerate and date him. The idea being that if she dates a misogynist porn-loving douche bag that her sexual fantasies will either be fulfilled, or, she will renounce all disempowering fantasies. Become a real feminist.

Jane soon finds the right man for the job: self-proclaimed sexual deviant and wannabe artist Dick. But she soon realises Dick has a serious case of the madonna-whore complex: he’d rather eat her spaghetti and watch porn than have filthy sex. Determined to test her theory, Dick and Jane begin making dirty films and ‘Dirty Little Machine’ descends into the surreal and chaotic world of pornography.

Zut Alors Theatre return with the UK premiere of Miranda Huba’s second-wave feminist drama. First performed in New York in 2011 to critical acclaim, ‘Dirty Little Machine’ is a highly original piece of storytelling that explores our sexual relationships in an increasingly voyeuristic culture. Grab a drink underground and descend into the world of Jane and Dick: a physical and fast paced dreamland, both poetic and profane.

14 — 18 Mar 2018
Vault Festival

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