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Astonishing performance from Rosie Sheehy makes revival of Machinal a captivating watch – review

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We’ll say this right away – Machinal is not an easy watch. In fact, it’s one of the most unnerving plays we’ve seen. Ever. This is largely due to the subject matter: it’s loosely based on the trial of Ruth Snyder, who murdered her husband and was sentenced to death.

A photo of her in the electric chair was published on front pages across the USA the morning after her execution, making her a household name at the time.

Playwright Sophie Treadwell attended the trial in 1927 although did not report on it; instead she wrote Machinal as a response, positioning Ruth as having been pushed to breaking point by society’s expectations of women.

Rosie Sheehy is the star of the show in a haunting, captivating performance of the young woman who is based on Ruth. Initially she doesn’t seem anything too out of the ordinary – she’s fed up with her job, she finds her demanding mother a little overbearing, she flinches when her vaguely-repulsive husband tries to touch her.

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