Review: How To Date a Magical Creature, VAULT Festival

Pushing the boundaries of improv beyond the mortal realm, How To Date a Magical Creature is a comic highlight at this week’s VAULT Festival

Sometimes you just have to murder David Attenborough””

The beauty of improv is, of course, that you can make up anything you like and so it follows that you can base an improv show around anything. Which is, I think, how we’ve ended up with How To Date a Magical Creature, a Parky-style chat show with a guest list made up of an array of fantastical beasts suggested by the audience . 

And from their imagination at this show, were plucked such luminaries as the Loch Ness Monster with wings, an ethnically ambiguous unicorn, and the Mongolian deathworm, not to mention Turnip the teenage witch and Hades. An eclectic and impressive mixture, all put through their paces by effortlessly charismatic host Toby Vanilla (Jonah Fazel), a man who knows just what his voice can do… Continue reading “Review: How To Date a Magical Creature, VAULT Festival”

Review: Scream Phone, VAULT Festival

Swipe Right Theatre’s Scream Phone is a hilarious 80s spoof musical at the VAULT Festival

“Who who who’s gotta crush on you?”

Funny story – I didn’t get to see Swipe Right Theatre’s last show 2 Become 1 because when I got to the theatre, they’d cancelled the performance and neglected to tell me. But I’m not (that) bitter (honest) and so I was glad to be able to see their follow up musical Scream Phone as part of this year’s VAULT programme.

And I’m mighty glad I did because theirs is an 80s referencing, horror movie-spoofing, tongue-in-cheek kind of humour that is right up my boulevard and it is on fine form here. It’s 1989, Queen Bee Melody is hosting a sleepover for her pals: she;s got her new Dream Phone at the ready, the pizza’s coming and Richard* the foreign exchange student is in town – all the ingredients for a real good time right? Continue reading “Review: Scream Phone, VAULT Festival”

Review: Tacenda, VAULT Festival

RedBellyBlack’s Tacenda at the VAULT Festival comes off as a Groundhog Day for millennials, though it could afford to be messier in its dénouement 

“I feel like I’m missing something important”

With my Susie Dent hat on, “tacenda is an archaic term referring to things better left unsaid; the opposite of ‘agenda'”. With the hat off, Tacenda is also the name of RedBellyBlack’s new show devised deviously for the VAULT Festival in their inimitable mix of physical theatre, storytelling and sequins and gold lamé jackets.

Elizabeth and Joy have been friends for a long time but things are becoming highly strained as Joy has moved in while looking for a new place to live and Elizabeth is newly single and both are having problems at work. On the day of their best friend Joel’s 30th birthday party, communication becomes so bad that the universe makes them do over the day until they finally start being honest with each other, and with themselves. Continue reading “Review: Tacenda, VAULT Festival”

Review: Warped, VAULT Festival

Martin Malcolm’s Warped at the VAULT Festival looks at the impact of institutionalised toxic masculinity on the young men of today, through the lens of the legacy of the Kray twins 

“You’ve put me right off my Monster Munch”

It’s interesting, isn’t it, to consider the figures that society chooses to lionise, the things we’re willing to forgive or forget once a shadow of historical distance appears. The Kray twins are a case in point, some adaptation or other of their story never far from our screens, serving to usher them if not to the status of national treasure then to a pantheon of questionable British icons (we’ll discuss Churchill another day…).

Russell Lucas (producer and director) and Martin Malcolm’s (writer) Warped challenges the romanticised commercialisation of that legacy by framing questions of contemporary male behaviour around it. Is it any wonder that toxic masculinity is rife when these are the myths that young men are encouraged to look to? Through the eyes of Aaron and Matty, whose idolisation has gone to extreme levels, we’re forced to face its consequences. Continue reading “Review: Warped, VAULT Festival”

Review: Ladybones, VAULT Festival

Sorcha McCaffrey’s Ladybones proves an incisive and insightful look at OCD without ever labouring its point 

“A can of Coke is just a can of Coke. Until it’s not.”

It takes real skill to write effectively about a subject without making your play ostensibly about that subject. A simplistic take on Sorcha McCaffrey’s Ladybones would be to call it an OCD play but that would be to deny its layers of subtleties and the depth of its actual subject matter which is far more wide-ranging.

McCaffrey plays Nuala, a junior osteology archaeologist whose quietly ordered existence is thrown into disarray upon the discovery of a skeleton which turns out to be that of a young woman. Throwing herself into finding out the story of the victim, she starts to identify with her, a journey that pulls too hard on the thread of everything holding her together. Continue reading “Review: Ladybones, VAULT Festival”

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”