Review by Marjorie Prime at Chocolate Factory Menier: Anne Reid is great


Though chatty and static like a piece of drama, Jordan Harrison’s 2014 Pulitzer-nominated play is a fascinating meditation on aging, death, and artificial intelligence.

Dominic Dromgoole’s coolly understated production features performances by the gorgeous Anne Reid – the 87-year-old star of Years and Years, Dinnerladies and Sanditon – and Evening Standard Award winner Nancy Carroll, who is moving on after three days with viral laryngitis.

As a sci-fi nerd, I’m happy to see a playwright who thinks his way into the future and finds a plot that expresses existential fear of AI without resorting to apocalyptic battles and killer robots. But to be clear, I would also like to see her on stage more often.

Designer Jonathan Fensom presents us with a stylish wood-lined modernist apartment overlooking the ocean. Reid’s older Marjorie is gently scolded for not eating by young Walter (Richard Fleeshman), whose mild facial expression and affectless speech identify him as an android. He turns out to be her dead husband’s construct, designed to stimulate her memory and thereby slow her growing dementia.

While Walter is emotionless, just absorbing and transmitting information, Marjorie’s daughter, Tess (Carroll), is a bundle of suppressed anger, guilt, and frustration. Tony Jayawardena as her husband Jon adds warmth and compassion to what could otherwise be a dry emotional brew.

Anne Reid (Marjorie), Nancy Carroll (Tess), Tony Jayawardena (Jon)

/ Manuel Harlan

The sense that we’re in a future recognisably close to our present is well-established: Marjorie is so old that she “had an iPhone” before she rejected technology, and we later learn that she was born in 1977 became. It’s probably impossible to play the role of a robot without resorting to a cliché or two, but the humanoid AIs here are at least believable: calm, reactive, yet somehow unnerving.

Although the play is only 80 minutes long, it has three acts, and in the second, Tess works through her unsolved problems with an AI by Marjorie. The shadow of mental illness and cognitive decline is increasingly hanging over the piece. The final chapter asks what it means if machines remember us better than we do and will outlive ourselves: where is the “self” then?

In addition to being a prolific playwright, Harrison is a television writer and producer whose credits include three seasons of Orange is the New Black. His writing here has a minimalism for the small screen but great thematic ambition. There are no fireworks – or lasers or spaceships – in this futuristic drama, but plenty to chew on.

My father passed away after several years of dementia in 2020, so I appreciated Reid’s mix of pearliness and amazement and flash of a lost personality: it’s so good to see this most subtle and knowing of actresses back on stage. Tess’ tiredness and irritability is well done too, and Carroll is a trooper: I never would have guessed she was ill unless it was announced beforehand. Marjorie Prime offers stimulating ideas and great acting, but it’s not a great play.

Menier chocolate factory, to May 6; Review by Marjorie Prime at Chocolate Factory Menier: Anne Reid is great

Screesnrantss is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button