Review: Marmite, VAULT Festival

My second open relationships in gay couples play at this year’s VAULT Festival, Marmite reveals a writing team with something to say about modern life

“Do you have a condom?
‘I have a Twix wrapper'”

After a meet-cute at the bar in a Bristol Wetherspoons, which sees them both dump the people they’re actually there on dates with, the future for Dylan and Eddie looks peachy. Both in their early 20s with chemistry rocketing off the chart, they’re soon living together and discussing how they’re going to get through Eddie’s sister’s hen do. But life’s never quite as simple as that, and an innocuous question about exclusivity reveals a fundamental difference in their approach to sex and love.

Hallam Breen & Phoebe Simmonds’ Marmite follows Open as another exploration of open relationships in gay couples at the VAULT Festival but ultimately, its strengths are most evident in depicting the minutiae of modern gay life. Theo Walker and Ned Costello both have an easy charm about them and as they navigate the ‘getting to know you’ stage, there’s something quite touching in their innate fondness for each other, deepened by their varying revelations about coming out to family (or not), and their contrasting views on Cher.

The switch into something more dramatic once Eddie discovers Dylan wants to have an open relationship isn’t quite as confidently handled in Breem and Simmonds’ production. The focus falls more heavily on Eddie’s point of view as he becomes more and more dissatisfied with the arrangement to which he’s consented in order to keep his man and thus it feels a little unbalanced. His perspective is of course entirely valid and it is cogently argued here but we don’t get to hear half as much from Dylan and more from him on bucking heteronormative trends would have enriched the narrative for me.

Still, an impressive introduction to Limerence Productions for me, and to a writing team with something to say about modern life.

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

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