Attempts at a threesome go wrong in more ways than one in Vanilla at VAULT Festival
“I don’t know what I was expecting really”
Lockdown has had its ups and downs for Dan and Katie. Somewhere in their mid-20s, they’ve been together for a few years and fallen into comfortable patterns. But the reality of enforced restrictions has shifted those patterns into a rut that Dan is longing to escape, unable to stomach the predictability of puzzle nights on a Friday. So instead, he’s organised a threesome to perk things up and now they’re waiting for Nick to arrive.
There’s something a little challenging about the set-up of Laura Meads’ play. Rather than going for the sex-positive outlook it suggests, Vanilla‘s (missionary) position as a (straight) comedy/drama necessitates the pair having all sorts of conversations that should have happened earlier and stopped the threesome dead in its tracks because Katie (Meads) is clearly not fully onboard and Dan (Ned Wakeley) is being far from fully forthcoming.
Throwing up doubt after doubt, questioning why the third is a man not a woman, lamenting that there’s no groundrules in place, making a punchline out of safewords and the idea of consent, too much is sacrificed in the name of would-be comedy. And that’s all before the jeopardy of Nick’s arrival (Scott Henderson) which pushes things into truly uncomfortable places for the couple (and for the audience too if we’re being honest).
Mead has a clear ear for well-crafted dialogue and a dry wit to boot. But the callousness with which she has Katie draw the most personal of revelations from Dan is shocking, even with the play’s attempt to shift from sex comedy to psychological drama. And the unfolding twist feels schematic at best in Keith Swainston’s production, little feels truthful but nor is it funny or dramatic enough to forgive these shortcomings, High School Musical reference aside.