Review: Emile and Emily, VAULT Festival

Tightrope Theatre’s Emile and Emily is a fascinating theatrical experiment in the making at VAULT Festival

“Spag bol doesn’t sound very romantic”

From flatmates squabbling over privilege, to flight attendants dealing with turbulence both literal and emotional, to strangers dealing with a shared grief, the story of Emile and Emily is a multi-layered one. It’s actually three stories, three different Emiles and Emilys, written by three different writers (Mojola Akinyemi, Nurit Chinn and Philippa Lawford). And it is also something of a theatrical experiment as there’s a shared language at play, each tale using many of the same lines but spinning them off in their own ways.

In that respect, Emile and Emily doesn’t quite pull it off. The echo of repeated words and motifs has a natural elegant pull that feels like it is building a spiderweb of connections between these three worlds here. But as they remain resolutely disparate, that web dissipates into the ether, the work not really gathering the cumulative impact from the exercise at hand in a way that might deliver an extra emotional punch under Lawford’s direction.

What we do have though is three stories of how difficult, and rewarding, it can be to connect with each other, delivered through three entertaining pairings. Isaiah St Jean and Francesca Eldred’s flatmates reminisce about their time at uni but the class divide between them still throws up wrinkles in their friendship. Having battled overhead lockers, David Matthews and Molly Monkton’s mismatched flight attendants next have to deal with oversharing as their in-flight chit-chat turns more personal.

And best of all, Adam Mirsky and Sara Hazemi play out an awkward (first) meeting between the boyfriend and the twin sister of the recently deceased Louis. Both working through their grief, there’s something unbearably poignant about their conversation, peeling back the contrasting ways in which they each knew him, the writer exploring the different sides of ourselves we show to family and friends and the complexities inherent in navigating those relationships. Interesting work, though the concept might need refining just a tad more.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Jake Bush
Emile and Emily is booking at the VAULT Festival until 26th February

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