Review: Vix & Helen, VAULT Festival

A tale of far-from-ordinary teenage friendship, Vix & Helen is a corker of a two-hander at VAULT Festival this week 

“You’re thinking why are we even friends”

There’s an unnerving energy thrumming below the surface of Vix & Helen that resonates far beyond the chilly confines of the Pit. A pair of volatile teenage schoolmates bound together by circumstance as much as genuine friendship, their complex relationship shifts into another state altogether when a curious incident befalls the Reception class that their younger siblings share.

Heloise Spring’s debut play toys interestingly with form in Maya Shimmin’s astute production. Direct address intervenes in dramatic scenes as it becomes clear that there’s two distinctly different versions of events being offered here. Flashforwards give us a tease of the gravity of what might be coming to pass. Audience members on the front row may even find themselves co-opted into crucial exchanges that occupy yet another space.

Although united by their baggy school uniform jumpers, Vix and Helen are like chalk and cheese and at this all-too-malleable age, this play probes into the dynamics of such a friendship. Tall and leggy, outwardly gregarious, Lucy Sherratt’s Helen seems to have it set, as Spring’s shorter (in both stature and temperament) Vix glowers in her shadow, their competing – but sometimes complementary – storytelling thoroughly engrossing.

For nothing is really as it seems on the surface, and certainly not via the personas we project to the outside world. As such, there’s a deeply sensitive exploration of the turbulent mental health of both these young women, deepening the context of why they are behaving this way. And as concern battles with competition in the tangled web of their relationship, the unsettling ramifications of the urban legend-like story involving their siblings plays out vividly. Brilliantly performed, I felt this one in my marrow.

Running time: 60 minutes
Vix & Helen is booking at VAULT Festival until 5th February

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