Review: The Noble Nine, VAULT Festival

The delightfully daft The Noble Nine at the VAULT Festival asks what happens when people like The Famous Five grow up

“It’s a caper!”

Any play that starts with a face-off to ‘Mmmbop’ has to be worth your attention right? And Matt Parvin’s The Noble Nine proves to be pretty much just that with its frantic, scrappy charm filling the echoing chamber of the Cavern at the VAULT Festival. Matt Parvin’s offbeat comedy is a grown-up spoof of Enid Blyton’s tales of team-based, derring-do and even has its own catchphrase “leave it to the Nine!” (which does also feel like an incomplete Brooklyn 99 tagline…). 

This Noble Nine are the grandchildren (plus a furry friend) of author Estelle West who took inspiration from their childhood games to pen a series of best-selling novels. Now they’ve grown-up and grown apart – “when was the last time that we were together” – but the news that Granny is on her deathbed and the promise of their inheritance brings them reluctantly back together. And what seemed like fun games to play take on a more sinister tone as some unchildlike truths begin to rear their head – what a caper indeed.

With mysteriously dead parents, lacrosse sticks, creepy dolls, cricket jumpers and presumably lashings of ginger ale somewhere, there’s a delightful daftness to proceedings – “look what I’ve found – massive keys!” – which director Polina Kalinina marshals well, to begin with at least. As the tone darkens considerably but no less hilariously, the play loses some of its tautness in a frenetic second half which perhaps sacrifices some of its smartness at the expense of the (still enjoyable) silliness. But as one of the Nine says, “come on, don’t look so glum”, this is refreshingly good fun. 

Running time: 1 hour (without interval)
The Noble Nine is running at the VAULT Festival until 3rd February

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