Review: Counter, VAULT Festival

A play with interactive elements always has potential but Counter doesn’t quite deliver

“What are you trying to say?”

As a woman arrives 30 minutes late for a date with their partner of 10 years, we soon discover that things are not going super great. It’s been three weeks since they last communicated, ‘Her’ having fled to her sister’s place after ‘Him’ made a grand public gesture and rather than just a drink in a noisy pub, these are actually full-on crisis talks about the state of their relationship.

This we clock from the dialogue in Counter, but also from the moments when they each break the fourth wall to pour out their true feelings to the audience, relaying to us what they should be saying to each other. These sections eventually evolve into direct audience participation, the characters asking questions about what they should do or what they should have done, begging suggestions about what could make things better.

Without giving too much away, writer/director Maggie N Razavi tips the scales a little too heavily one way, as evidenced by about 95% of tonight’s audience agreeing on whether Her should stay or go. So whilst it is fun to engage lightly with the decision-making process, there’s too little at play here nor are the blandly middle-class characters sufficiently engaging for us to really feel plugged in.

They may have been together for a decade but their varying and shared privilege keeps us at arms length, something exacerbated by the resolute unsuitedness we’re presented with. That’s not to say that Rikvah Bunker and Max Norman don’t offer up strong performances, bouncing well off the audience participation, it’s the (non-)dramatic journey Counter takes them on which feels like the issue.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Counter is booking at VAULT Festival until 12th February

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