Review: The Martini Encounter in ‘One Night in Little Rimming’, VAULT Festival

Some moments of musical genius in The Martini Encounter in ‘One Night in Little Rimming’ at the VAULT Festival – worth searching out where you can

“Not so much a variety act, more a mid-life crisis”

There are some moments of musical genius in The Martini Encounter in ‘One Night in Little Rimming’. A witty take on Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’, a kazoo-aided bossa nova-inflected version of Alanis Morisette’s ‘You Oughta Know’, a gorgeous uke-heavy rendition of Lily Allen’s ‘Fuck You’. And the medleys – who’d’ve thought ’99 Problems’, ‘My Name Is…’ and The Fresh Prince theme song could all be rapped at the same time and still work, same too with ‘I Predict a Riot, ‘Firestarter’ and ‘Here’s Comes the Hotstepper’. Real kudos to whoever did these arrangements.

The repertoire belongs to cabaret act The Martini Encounter who have been disbanded for years. The promise of cold hard cash tempts them out of retirement for one last performance at the Carol Vorderman Playhouse in Little Rimming on Sea, but history weighs heavy on this trio and recriminations spill forth at every opportunity. As they recount the odd tale of their glory days and the many tales of their downfall, you feel the wheels might fall off this bandwagon at any moment. Continue reading “Review: The Martini Encounter in ‘One Night in Little Rimming’, VAULT Festival”

Review: Call Me Fury, VAULT Festival

Out of the Forest’s Call Me Fury, looks like it might become another hit show for this award-winning company

“Forget everything you know”

Fresh from their Offie-award winning success and more significantly, being named in my top 10 shows of last year, Out of the Forest Theatre return swiftly with their new play Call Me Fury, presented here as a work-in-progress by writer Sasha Wilson. And once again, she urges us to reconsider what we think of as history, whilst constructing a new narrative that seeks to redress some of that patriarchal imbalance.

This time it is the Salem Witch Trials that are the primary target, though Wilson’s forensic eye layers in so much more besides. Notions of women not being believed in courtrooms, men abusing positions of power, lies gaining a terrible currency through all levels of society – there’s a terrible timelessness to so much of the way that women have been and still are treated, history needs to teach us better but it has to be the right history. Continue reading “Review: Call Me Fury, VAULT Festival”

Review: I Want You To Admire Me/But You Shouldn’t, VAULT Festival

A gameshow gone hilariously, tragically wrong – I Want You To Admire Me/But You Shouldn’t is full of promise at the VAULT Festival

“Which is better or worse…?”

David Attenborough or Michelle Obama? Magic or science? Going along with the majority or sticking to your own guns? The interactive element of I Want You To Admire Me/But You Shouldn’t requires some fun decision-making but also offers up something interesting about the psychology of audiences when confronted with even the most harmless of choices.

Dirty Rascals’ I Want You To… takes the form of your archetypal TV game show from an era gone by, as three contestants compete for the accolade of Most Admirable Person. But the contest proves far from benign as the desire to win corrodes into a desperation to be approved, laying bare the ultimate hollowness of seeking such approval from others.  Continue reading “Review: I Want You To Admire Me/But You Shouldn’t, VAULT Festival”

Review: Marmite, VAULT Festival

My second open relationships in gay couples play at this year’s VAULT Festival, Marmite reveals a writing team with something to say about modern life

“Do you have a condom?
‘I have a Twix wrapper'”

After a meet-cute at the bar in a Bristol Wetherspoons, which sees them both dump the people they’re actually there on dates with, the future for Dylan and Eddie looks peachy. Both in their early 20s with chemistry rocketing off the chart, they’re soon living together and discussing how they’re going to get through Eddie’s sister’s hen do. But life’s never quite as simple as that, and an innocuous question about exclusivity reveals a fundamental difference in their approach to sex and love.

Hallam Breen & Phoebe Simmonds’ Marmite follows Open as another exploration of open relationships in gay couples at the VAULT Festival but ultimately, its strengths are most evident in depicting the minutiae of modern gay life. Theo Walker and Ned Costello both have an easy charm about them and as they navigate the ‘getting to know you’ stage, there’s something quite touching in their innate fondness for each other, deepened by their varying revelations about coming out to family (or not), and their contrasting views on Cher. Continue reading “Review: Marmite, VAULT Festival”

Review: Leia and the Roman, VAULT Festival

The form of the rom-com gets mixed up in Leia and the Roman at the VAULT Festival

“We can’t break up over a Star Wars film”

Is the point at which you introduce roleplay into a relationship a healthy expression of developing desire or a sticking plaster over things going wrong. At first, it seems like it’s the former for Ed and Kate (and when your man looks as good as this centurion, we’re all winners!), but it’s soon apparent that all is not well here. It’s not just that Kate has dressed up as Princess Leia from The Last Jedi rather than Return of the Jedi, but neither really seems to be sure what the costumes are actually for.

Sally O’Leary and James Saville’s play Leia and the Roman tackles the world of modern )straight) dating with something of a coolly  unsentimental eye. Kate and Ed find themselves in a rut even after just a couple of years, unable to even decide on what takeaway to get without squabbling. And as is so often the case, it takes an innocuous argument that snowballs into something worse to force them to dig deep into the truth about where they both are emotionally. O’Leary and Sam Jenkins-Shaw are both really good here, even making us believe the script’s lies about ham and pineapple pizza. Continue reading “Review: Leia and the Roman, VAULT Festival”

Review: The D Word, VAULT Festival

The D Word proves a bit of a disappointment for me, a first at this year’s VAULT Festival

“I’m a modern man: I eat hummus and suck cock”

There’s something a bit awkward about reading that a play is deeply autobiographical after not having really believed it. So I should probably apologise in advance to Jordan Waller. His story certainly is remarkable – a gay man born of lesbian parents via sperm donation – exploring notions of identity and self when your upbringing is far from conventional. So why did The D Word leave me cold.

I think it was something to do with the tone of the show, caught somewhere between comedy routine and confessional. A brusque vein of brutally smutty humour runs throughout the hour (weirdly focused on Bible-bashing jokes at one point) that keeps the audience somewhat at arm’s length rather than embracing us fully into his story. Tales of being outed by his birth mum at 11 raise a chuckle but his growing emotional distance from his other mum Dawn once their relationship ends is left unexplored. Continue reading “Review: The D Word, VAULT Festival”

Review: Sexy Lamp, VAULT Festival

Katie Arnstein’s Sexy Lamp emerges as probably the best thing I’ve seen at the VAULT Festival so far – she really is one to watch

“His story is as unresolved as any female character’s in a Michael Bay film”

Katie Arnstein’s Bicycles and Fish was one of the highlights of last year’s VAULT festival for me, so I couldn’t but approach her new show Sexy Lamp  with just a touch of raised expectations. So it is with pleasure that I can report I gave my first standing o of this year, accompanied by many others (in fact, the first I’ve seen at the VAULT so far).

Arnstein’s style is of the deceptively gentle confessional. She’ll lure you in with Love Actually-style handwritten signs, catchy tunes from her ukulele and a wonderfully wry sense of humour. But then she’ll clobber you over the head with searingly honest insight and brutal anecdotal evidence from the front line – in this case, of trying to become an actor in an industry that too often leaves women interchangeable with, well, sexy lamps. Continue reading “Review: Sexy Lamp, VAULT Festival”

Review: Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist, VAULT Festival

You will never hear Keanu Reeves the same way again, Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist is a hilarious highlight of the VAULT Festival

“I don’t do maths, just cheekbones”

The more you think about it, Cate Blanchett probably is the mortal enemy of Tilda Swinton. Such are the thoughts that will run through your mind as you ponder the many and varied delights of Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist, the kind of extended comedy sketch that really shouldn’t work but turns out to be second-Oscar-winningly good.

Byron Lane’s play is the kind of thing that defies description, or rather description fails to do it justice. I could say bubble-wrap coat but that’s nothing compared to the swishiness of it in real life, Similarly, the wearing of lace tablecloths and scarves…both moments of inspired comedy and that’s just scratching the surface of Tilda’s outfit.   Continue reading “Review: Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist, VAULT Festival”

Review: Bleach, VAULT Festival

An arrestingly forthright show about life as a rent boy, Bleach proves one of the VAULT Festival’s more compellingly acted one-man show

“Do I look like a piece of meat to you”

Truth be told, there’s not the hugest amount of originality to Dan Ireland-Reeves’ Bleach  – the literal ins and outs of an aspiring rent boy feel two-a-penny (though maybe that speaks more to the kind of plays I pick to see…) – but what does set it apart is the fierce commitment with which he performs his monologue, and the unsparing complicity he demands from us as his audience.

That kind of connection is vital to the success of a one-man-show, to create the kind of atmospheric storytelling that pulls the audience into the palm of their hand and then dares them to look away. And that’s what’s on offer here with the story of Tyler – a young lad from the sticks who moves to London and, tired of scratching a living as a waiter in Chinatown, hops over Shaftesbury Avenue to become a rent boy in Soho, as you do. Continue reading “Review: Bleach, VAULT Festival”

Review: The Good Landlord, VAULT Festival

Strong performances elevate Michael Ross’ play The Good Landlord at the VAULT Festival

“We can see Big fucking Ben from the kitchen window and its only £400 a month”

Michael Ross’ The Good Landlord opens with Tom and Ed at a flat viewing that feels too good to be true – amazing central location, a pittance of a rent, and a benevolent landlord determined to make this kind of London living affordable for recent graduates. “What’s the catch” they jokingly ask the letting agent and sure enough one emerges, as security cameras have been installed throughout the property and won’t ever been turned off.

Thus the scene is set to tackle the growing surveillance state and London’s housing crisis, particularly for renters, and Cat Robey’s production is a fresh and occasionally funny take on this. Maximillian Davey’s introverted Tom recoils from every potential move captured on camera and Rupert Sadler’s wildly gregarious Ed pretty much revels in it, lapping up the perceived attention as if it is the audition of a lifetime. Continue reading “Review: The Good Landlord, VAULT Festival”