Review: Sticky Door, VAULT Festival

With Sticky Door, the final part of her It’s A Girl! trilogy at the VAULT Festival, Katie Arnstein proves herself a worthy heir to Victoria Wood 

“Like Sweeney Todd, I’ve had an epiphany”

In her latest show, Katie Arnstein makes a joke that people have been comparing her shtick to Phoebe Waller-Bridge but I’d disagree, I’d argue that it is the spirit of Victoria Wood that she channels most effectively in her work, which goes a long way to explaining why I enjoy it so much. After the successes of Bicycles and Fish and the extraordinary Sexy Lamp, she returns to the VAULT Festival with the final instalment of her It’s A Girl! trilogy, Sticky Door.

And I’m glad to say we’re not in The Godfather Part III territory as far as threequels go, though it proves a little difficult to watch for different reasons. Sticky Door is blessed with the same searing honesty that has marked her previous plays and as she delves into her experience of the year 2014 when she decided to have a whole lotta sex and also discovered that she was extremely depressed, the result is something that feels deeply, affectingly, personal. 

At first, her modus operandi remains intact – cue cards and sweet songs keeping the tone relatively light as her laser-sharp observational humour nails inalienable truths about Lichfield Trent Valley train station, sex education lessons in school and the horrors of renting in London. And as she comes up with a plan to become “the Optimus Prime of sex”, the segue into the dating world is equally full of insight, particularly into the dynamics of being candid about your sexual needs.

And then, and then… As things go awry and mental health issues come to the fore, that honesty becomes almost brutal. Necessarily so as it turns out and the weight of the show is certainly challenging here but step by tiny step, Arnstein gently keeps a hold of our hand to guide us, to demonstrate that there can be a way through even the darkest of times. Her note about coping mechanisms (or is it Neil’s…?) resounds with such truth, it’s almost too much to bear.

But the humour inches back in, with self-realisation and a song just around the corner, if perhaps just a little more fragile than before. The intensely personal nature of Sticky Door means that it might not embrace quite the same universality of Sexy Lamp but it proves more affecting for it. And thematically it is so pleasing in how it both stands tall in its own right and yet circles back to both earlier pieces to close a chapter – Arnstein’s is a thoughtful, valuable and essential voice.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Lidia Crisafulli
Sticky Door is booking at the VAULT Festival until 16th February, when the It’s A Girl! trilogy will be performed in its entirety 

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