“I do enjoy a skimpy short”
Originally commissioned in 2012 when it played festivals like Latitude, nabokov’s Symphony is a great fit for the ethos of the Vault Festival taking place underneath Waterloo and this sparky revival proves to be one of the highlights of the programme so far. Three short plays by three of the UK’s most exciting playwrights which mix together spoken word and live music, the show treads a blurred line between theatre and gig and pulses with an exciting spirit.
The way that the three writers utilise Ed Gaughan’s music in their stories is quite different but always interesting. Jonesy by Tom Wells is a riff on sporting underdog movies, with an asthmatic student determined to prove himself in his GCSE PC class but ending up in the netball team when rugby turns out to be too rough. Iddon Jones makes a lovable lead and Wells’ quirky sense of humour shines through, not least when Jonesy’s personal theme song finally plays.
Ella Hickson‘s A Love Song for the People of London integrates music much more, almost an extended song in which the difficulties of metropolitan romance are explored. Remy Beasley and Adam Sopp are lots of fun as a putative couple on a bus – him frustrated by her Kindle blocking the avenue for his favourite chat-up line and enjoying the scent of her hair, her deeply disturbed by the heavy breather behind him and much more interested by the cute guy in the audience.
Last up and most effective, for my money, is My Thoughts on Leaving You by Nick Payne. The younger brother of Midsummer (A Play With Songs), Payne fashions a wickedly comic narrative out of the drunken coming together of a couple, their torrid relationship and then its drunken collapse. This time it is rom-com clichés being spoofed but there’s also a genuine heart to this mismatched pair which is quite touching.
Anonymous boiler suits (which are shed by the cast of four as they take turns to take the lead) and throbbing decibel levels (the four are all multi-instrumentalists as well as singers) manage to completely shift the atmosphere away from conventional theatre and it really works well. An element or two might be a little rough around the edges but there’s something to be said for a gig where you know there won’t be a pint of something unsavoury being thrown from the balcony.