Review: Contempt, VAULT Festival

Gabrielle Nellis-Pain shines in James Boyd’s Contempt at VAULT Festival

“The margin is government efficiency”

Catherine is the youngest ever Chancellor of the Exchequer to take office and she’s got all the pressures of a fast-approaching budget day and a team of officious grey-voiced civil servants to deal with. But as Catherine takes to the stage, sweatshirt pulled over a ballgown and sporting a hefty black eye, it seems clear that all is not as it should be.

James Boyd’s Contempt take a cock-eyed look at the shadowy realms that lie behind much of our contemporary politics, suggesting that there’s much more to the eye to the unseen mandarins who pull the strings of policy and practice, not least the actual purse strings of the Treasury itself. As Catherine gets invited to an exclusive party, she anticipates her ‘in’.

Boyd’s decision to make this a monologue proves a curious one. It offers an acting masterclass for performer Gabrielle Nellis-Pain as she brings a world of supporting characters to life including her ferociously sharp mother and any number of government officials and not-so-officials who confirm her worst suspicions about the nature of those truly in power.

But it is arguable that Boyd doesn’t go far enough in creating dramatic stakes for the characters, outside of the confirmation bias for what one assumes would be the vast majority of a VAULT audience. Ultimately there’s more dynamism in Bradley Farmer’s hugely evocative score with its haunting staccato chants, suggesting there’s potential yet uncovered in Contempt.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Alex Harvey-Brown
Contempt is booking at VAULT Festival until 19th March

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