Review: PLAY, VAULT Festival


“I don’t even know what a colossus of the creative industries is”

 PLAY is a new writing initiative that aims to inspire collaborative working by bringing together writers and directors and giving them two weeks to come up with a short play. And here at the VAULT Festival, there’s two sets of four plays, or PLAYs, bringing together a rather exciting set of creatives to produce some spankingly fresh theatre. The second set takes place mid-February but I’d urge you to book for this one now (you’ve got until Sunday) as I reckon it’s the best tenner you can spend this week, with some seriously impressive work going on here.

Play 9, written by Chloe Todd Fordham and directed by Polina Kalinina, felt like a bit of a riff on Shallow Grave, three university pals skirting around an uncomfortable truth about their (unseen) flatmate. Starting off with a well-choreographed sequence of fighting over a remote, Fordham’s writing quickly slipped into its structure of three differing accounts of what happened, slightly complementary, slightly contradictory, full of detail fleshing out the complex relationships herein, slowly but surely moving the place of real revelation. A couple of right-up-to-the-minute references perhaps overplayed their hand but I did mostly enjoy the shifty evasion of this guilty trio. 

Play 10, written Sam H Freeman and directed by Dan Pick, was one of my favourites in its sheer unexpectedness and audacity. A pair of women trapped in a toxic, possibly emotionally abusive, relationship go back and forth with hilarious and humanistic results, Pick pulling an astonishing intensity from both Molly Vevers and Thalissa Teixeira that brought an exciting uncertainty about what might happen next. The running gag about a lactose-intolerant person working in a cheese shop was also excellently worked.

Play 11, written by Afsaneh Gray and directed by Oliver Dawe, had a beguiling quality as three 27-year-olds met up for a drink, each tiptoeing around a slightly disillusioned portrait of young adulthood, their interior frustrations spilling forth in asides to the audience. Gray’s writing taps into very real fears about today’s job market, loneliness in an ever more social media-obsessed world and latterly, a darker twist into racially-defined politics and the dangers – and ease – of simply being too complacent. An engaging cautionary tale well acted by Anyebe Godwin, Lowri Palfrey and Rosie Sansom.

Play 12, written by David Mumeni and directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward, was another two-hander and another extraordinary success. Lewis MacKinnon (“a Scottish Owen Jones” and Assad Zaman (“the Asian persuasion”) play two young men negotiating their way through the minefield of modern masculinity in the dating world, their monologues spliced together in their separate but linked journeys. Touching on what it really means to be a feminist, how to deal with societal expectations of being a ‘real’ man and its sexual politics too, this was a deeply considered piece of writing, intelligent but scorchingly funny with it, a job very well done.

So a great initiative then, and one which has paid rich dividends here. Whatever else you’re up to this weekend, be sure to come out and PLAY.

Running time: advertised as 70 minutes (without interval), ran closer to 85 minutes
Booking until 31st January

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