Review: i will still be whole (when you rip me in half), VAULT Festival

For me, i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) ends up plagued by some problematic directorial choices at the VAULT Festival

“I should have gone with her”

There’s something inevitably perverse that it isn’t a show in the aptly named Cavern that proves to be the first directorial mis-step that I get at this year’s VAULT Festival, but rather one in the comparative intimacy of the Pit next door. Wrapping the audience around all four walls has its definite advantages in establishing a certain kind of relationship with the audience but Helen Morley’s production crucially sacrifices a huge amount of audibility in doing so. 

And again, you can kind of see why the choice was made. The nature of Ava Wong Davies’ writing in i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) lends itself directly to the ruminative and muted. And as it takes the form of two monologues that wind ever closer, the movement of the two actors reflects both the emotional distance that exists and the way that it fluctuates. But the hushed delivery and static nature of many a scene proved fatal to actually hearing much of the text when presented with an actor’s back.

So hands up, I can’t speak to the entirety of Davies’ text, I just couldn’t hear swathes of it. What I did catch was densely poetic in its excavation of the mutability of identity through a (British) East Asian lens, suffused with extended pauses and the swells of Amanda Fleming’s sound design. And not as connected as I would have liked to be, the pacing felt thus felt a little off, straining just a little hard to impose a moody atmosphere rather than letting it grow organically.

And I did enjoy the contrasting experiences of Kailing Fu and Rosa Escoda’s mother and daughter, separated by so much more than time, each a product of the choices about what kind of woman they want to be, are allowed to be, in the societies in which they live. It wasn’t just me as a deaf man who struggled to hear though, two other people I spoke to also strained to catch it all – access is important for all y’all.

Running time: 1 hour (without interval)
i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) is booking at the VAULT Festival until  28th February

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