Emily Berrington lands 'dream job' as husband killer in Almeida Theatre's Machinal

Dream job: Emily Berrington will star in Machinal: Dave Benett
Dream job: Emily Berrington will star in Machinal: Dave Benett

Humans star Emily Berrington says her new role playing a young woman driven to murder is a “dream” job after the “constraints” of playing a robot.

The actress is set to star in a revival of a little-known American play, Machinal, which was written in 1928 and mirrors a notorious real-life murder case. The 31-year-old actress, who started rehearsals for the production at Islington’s Almeida Theatre on Monday, is best known for playing one of the humanoid “synths” in her hit show which returns to TV for its third series next month.

She said: “When I was thinking about what in a dream world would I love to do next after filming this series of Humans, and you don’t always get much choice, I thought I’d love to do some theatre and I’d love something where I can let go of those physical constraints that I’ve been in as part of Humans.

“I haven’t discovered what that will be yet in this play, but it’s wonderful to be able to do something where the journey is so enormous and there will be a physical freedom I haven’t experienced for a while. I’ve got all that rigour now from Humans but there will be a little more freedom of how that works and I’m sure if my eyebrows move no-one will be telling me off.”

The play, written by journalist Sophie Treadwell, was inspired by the case of Ruth Snyder, who was executed in the electric chair after murdering her husband. Berrington says the story of her character, who follows the same tragic path and is referred to simply as A Young Woman, is “nightmarish”.

She said: “She is squashed by different aspects of her life and the different roles she has to play. She is a daughter, a working person, a mother and a wife and each of those roles trap her in a different little trap so there is a nightmare quality in the idea of all these different pressures building up, and what a very ordinary person can do if they are under that degree of pressure.”

Her research for the part included reading court reports of the original case and she said: “Newspapers ran it on the front page every single day for months, from the beginning of the trial to when she was executed. There was a huge obsession at the time and maybe there always is with women who commit violent crimes.”

Berrington has even listened to recordings made in the streets of 1920s New York to help her with the role.