Review: Blue Departed, VAULT Festival

Serafina Cusack’s beautifully poetic Blue Departed at the VAULT Festival marks her out as a writer to watch

“Some people are better off dead”

There’s a memorably dizzying poetry to Serafina Cusack’s writing, which makes her play Blue Departed an absolute treat to listen to and one that I wanted to be able to read straightaway to recapture its strange beauty and pitch-black humour. Interestingly, the publicity cites Dante’s Inferno as a key influence though it proves to be an inspiration that is worn lightly and likely for the best.

Cusack’s focus is on Him. And Her. A couple deeply in love, with each other and with smack, so much so that when he comes home to find her OD’d on the floor, his instinct is to spend as much time with her as he can, rather than report her death. Thus Blue Departed plays out as a fantasia in which Him desperately tries to keep Her alive, replaying key moments in their relationship and talking to her, even whilst trying to get through her funeral and wake.

Cusack’s lurid poetry is particularly well-suited to the evocation of drug-fuelled highs and crushing comedown lows and as a contrasting vision in mint green and aquamarine sequins, Mark Conway and Rebecca Layoo give a powerful portrayal of how addiction can take root anywhere and turn into a trap from which it is nigh-on impossible to escape. Both revel in the linguistic contortions of the script and are suitably frantic in their energy.

They’re accompanied by an effective Richard James Clarke as His Brother, trying to keep him rooted in reality whilst acting as his guide through the Circles of Hell which are basically the steps of dealing with a death – the funeral, the wake, getting through a day without them. Henry C Krempels’ production occasionally leans a little too heavily into frenzy, particularly when there’s writing as rich as this to savour, but it is more than enough to mark Cusack out as one to watch.

Running time: 1 hour (without interval)
Photos: Lidia Crisafulli
Blue Departed is booking at the VAULT Festival until 27th January

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