Review: Warped, VAULT Festival

Martin Malcolm’s Warped at the VAULT Festival looks at the impact of institutionalised toxic masculinity on the young men of today, through the lens of the legacy of the Kray twins 

“You’ve put me right off my Monster Munch”

It’s interesting, isn’t it, to consider the figures that society chooses to lionise, the things we’re willing to forgive or forget once a shadow of historical distance appears. The Kray twins are a case in point, some adaptation or other of their story never far from our screens, serving to usher them if not to the status of national treasure then to a pantheon of questionable British icons (we’ll discuss Churchill another day…).

Russell Lucas (producer and director) and Martin Malcolm’s (writer) Warped challenges the romanticised commercialisation of that legacy by framing questions of contemporary male behaviour around it. Is it any wonder that toxic masculinity is rife when these are the myths that young men are encouraged to look to? Through the eyes of Aaron and Matty, whose idolisation has gone to extreme levels, we’re forced to face its consequences.

A forceful two-hander, Warped works best when its hero worship is under the microscope. For though Alex Boxall’s Aaron has the Kray thing down to a tee, from the slicked back hair to starched white collars, James Ferguson’s Matty has Aaron up on a pedestal. And it is this power imbalance that creates the play’s most interesting textures as Aaron manipulates Matty’s obvious desire for him and Matty just laps it up until…until….

The shift that then follows doesn’t quite have the same power to it, moving Warped into new territory without the time to really dig deep into the ramifications of doing just that. An argument perhaps for further development of a second act but here, it leads to a final sequence that sits uneasily which ultimately, I suppose, is the point. There’s just an intellectual rigour to what has gone before that doesn’t quite hold up in the same way. 

Running time: 1 hour (without interval)
Warped is booking at the VAULT Festival until 24th February

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