Machines for Living explodes some the myths surrounding British architecture

This article is from 2012

Machines for Living explodes some the myths surrounding British architecture

New architecture-themed physical theatre show at 2012 Edinburgh Fringe

It’s become commonplace to denigrate the Brutalist 1960s tower blocks that now characterise the British urban skyline. But Let Slip, a theatre group formed by graduates from the Jacques Lecoq Theatre School in Paris, are seeking to combat these architectural stereotypes in their new Fringe show, Machines for Living.

Company director David Ralfe says, ‘Lots of these buildings are very unpopular now, either because people think they’re ugly or because they are associated with “problem estates”, crime and poverty. When we started looking into the stories behind these buildings, we discovered that they had been designed by Brutalist architects who were convinced they would create social utopia.’

The story focuses on two architects who move into a tower block they’ve designed, which has already created a buzz within the architectural community. The company have also been painstaking in their research, interviewing Brutalist architects and historians.

‘We also played to a group of teenagers, many of whom lived in tower blocks themselves,’ Ralfe says. ‘They said the show really resonated with their experiences. There was something very poetic about making the show at a theatre in the middle of an estate surrounded by tower blocks!’

But it’s far from a dry academic treatise, promising all the comic irreverence you might expect from Lecoq-trained artists. And though Brutalist architecture may have fallen out of favour, its legacy is still going strong. ‘The UK faces a housing shortage now as it did then,’ says Ralfe, ‘and The Shard proves that bombastic architecture never goes out of fashion; concrete is just replaced by glass and steel.’

Machines for Living, Zoo, 662 6892, 5–27 Aug (not 14, 21), £10 (£8). Previews 3 & 4 Aug, £5.

Machines for Living

  • 3 stars

Reclaim the heavens! Cities in the sky! Concrete solutions!' Two architects move into the tower block they have designed - engineered to encourage kinship and social harmony. Can their marriage survive as the building degenerates and the blame falls on them? How will they fare cuddling up to cockroaches and coming up with…

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