Review: Essence, VAULT Festival

Just a quickie for this as it felt a bit more work-in-progress than much else I’ve seen at the VAULT Festival. Essence marks the latest work from frequent collaborators Sarah Henley and Tori Allen-Martin and is supported by The CULTIVATE Bursary, in Association with COMMON and the Newbury Corn Exchange.

A tight two-hander set in Peckham, it takes the form of an odd couple play as early 30s semi-recluse Elyot has his methodical routine shattered by the arrival of teenager Laquaya breaking into his flat. She claims an intimate connection between the two and even as he denies its possibility, they discover other ties that bind.

In its determination to reduce the distance in our perceived differences, Essence finds a compelling argument to cleave together. Even if one’s music choices are poles apart, we don’t have to participate in a society that feels ever more polarised. It is currently less strong in the dramatic detail around the specific connection here which feels underinterrogated.

Still, Allen-Martin’s direction finds beauty in its simplicity of two souls drawing a little closer, and in Nina Barker-Francis and Timothy O’Hara Essence finds strong voice. 

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Essence is booking at the VAULT Festival until 23rd February

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