Review: Lola, VAULT Festival

Lola is a striking debut play from Hannah Nixon at the VAULT Festival

“You can’t stop someone from looking at you”

Hannah Nixon’s debut play Lola may take titular inspiration from Nabokov’s Lolita but it brings to mind Mamet’s Oleanna just as much, as it tackles the trials 18-year-old Lola faces in the daily act of going to college. The changes in her body are weighing her down emotionally and physically – she’s on a waiting list for a breast reduction – and they’re attracting all kinds of attention which she is struggling to deal with, most notably a boy who is stalking her.

So she turns to two adult figures in her life, two of her tutors, but not even their help comes without strings. Jez is the kind of guy who revels in blurring the line between teacher and student, and Olivia lights upon Lola as a kind of project in which to put feminist theory into practice. As Lola’s situation becomes increasingly complex, the relationships between the three deepen into something dangerously entangled – who’d be a teenager?!

Nixon does a brilliant job of balancing her three characters, there’s never a sense of the dice being loaded on one side against the other, even as motivations becomes murkier and ambitions are revealed. Melissa Dunne’s production matches this equivalence, in encouraging strong performances from Rob Ostlere and Joanne Ferguson as the adults and an excellent Gemma Barnett as the vibrant Lola whose increasing desperation pulls us into a striking climax. 

Running time: 1 hour (without interval)
Photos: Ali Wright
Lola is booking at the VAULT Festival until 27th January

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