Gorgeous new one-woman musical In Clay makes for a brilliant start to the 2023 VAULT Festival
“It’s been so long, now who knows”
After an enforced absence of too many years, it’s a joy to be back in the atmospheric surroundings of the VAULT tunnels and a real thrill that my first show of 2023’s festival was a cracker of a new musical in In Clay. Written by Jack Miles (music and lyrics) and Rebecca Simmonds (book and lyrics), this one-woman show epitomises what I love about this festival in the way it can bring undersung stories to light (and even launch young companies off-West End).
The subject here is Marie-Berthe Cazin, a French ceramicist from the early part of the twentieth century whose career was closely entwined that that of her husband Michel. We meet her in her 40s as she waits for a visit by her friend and fellow artist Henrietta Tirman and as she reflects back on her life, we trace the development of her craft through art school and how key relationships shaped that journey – with Henrietta, with Michel and with his father Jean-Charles, a noted artist himself who ran the school.
It’s a fascinating tale, blending ideas about artistic technique with moments of personal revelation (realising she’s not the only prodigious talent in the world is beautifully done). And as she graduates, and marries, there’s a compelling look at marital dynamics as Michel’s star rises on the back of her ceramics skills, her talent exploited by him under the guise of societal pressures or perhaps something more. The start of the Great War then sees personal battles supplanted by outright conflict and inevitably, so much shatters.
Rosalind Ford is highly engaging as Marie, sincere and studious in detailing the role art has played in her life and gorgeously ruminative on the realities of things not necessarily always going your way. She’s aided immeasurably by Miles’ score which is a thing of beauty as it marries jazz manouche with contemporary musical theatre with real confidence. Melodic strength shines through, toe-tapping rhythms abound and a touch of scatting allows Ford to further impress. A great start to VAULT 2023.