Review: Leia and the Roman, VAULT Festival

The form of the rom-com gets mixed up in Leia and the Roman at the VAULT Festival

“We can’t break up over a Star Wars film”

Is the point at which you introduce roleplay into a relationship a healthy expression of developing desire or a sticking plaster over things going wrong. At first, it seems like it’s the former for Ed and Kate (and when your man looks as good as this centurion, we’re all winners!), but it’s soon apparent that all is not well here. It’s not just that Kate has dressed up as Princess Leia from The Last Jedi rather than Return of the Jedi, but neither really seems to be sure what the costumes are actually for.

Sally O’Leary and James Saville’s play Leia and the Roman tackles the world of modern )straight) dating with something of a coolly  unsentimental eye. Kate and Ed find themselves in a rut even after just a couple of years, unable to even decide on what takeaway to get without squabbling. And as is so often the case, it takes an innocuous argument that snowballs into something worse to force them to dig deep into the truth about where they both are emotionally. O’Leary and Sam Jenkins-Shaw are both really good here, even making us believe the script’s lies about ham and pineapple pizza.

It’s a strong opening section which feels cleanly truthful in looking at how we settle, how much we’re willing to overlook so that the status quo of being together in a relationship, any relationship, can be maintained. The second half jump into the near-future and briefly into the past stretches perhaps a little too far. Hugh Coles and Rhiannon Neads are both entertaining as the next steps on the respective dating ladders but the subversion of the rom-com form feels a little off-kilter, the depths from that opening scene more sorely missed in the lighter comedy that follows. More centurion outfits in all the plays though, please.

Running time: 1 hour (without interval)
Leia and the Roman is booking at the VAULT Festival until 17th February

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