Review: PLAY – The Subterranean Season, VAULT Festival

“We’re gonna Jean Valjean the shit out of this”

PLAY – The Subterranean Season takes in plays 23-26 in their ever-growing programme of short plays, devised in just two weeks by a collaboration of writers, directors and actors up for the challenge of creating something sparklingly, spankingly, brand new and fresh. I saw PLAY Theatre Theatre Company for the first time at the VAULT Festival last year and fell for them hard, as is evident from the pull quote they’ve opted to use on their publicity this year (one for my scrapbook!). 

As ever, the four PLAYs cover a wide range of themes and styles, from the deceptively whimsical to the psychologically acute, sometimes within the same 15 minutes. For me, Aisha Zia’s 24 and Miriam Battye’s 26 achieved this balance perfectly, the former (directed by Holly Race-Roughan) mixing hipsterish shenanigans with guitars and cardboard boxes with a darkening look at the desperation of flat-hunting in South London. And the latter’s portrayal of an intense friendship was breath-takingly good, Matt Harrison teasing some sensational work from Emily Stott and Jessica Clark. Continue reading “Review: PLAY – The Subterranean Season, VAULT Festival”

Preview: VAULT 2017

Established now as one of the major arts festivals in London, the VAULT Festival returns from 25th January to 5th March 2017 at its original home beneath Waterloo Station and, for the first time, at satellite venues Network Theatre (just to the side of Waterloo) and Morley College (a little further away past Lambeth North). As ever, the programme features an exciting selection of shows exploring many themes via many more mediums. Full information and tickets are available now via VAULTFestival.com.

I’m still working out exactly what and how much I am going to see but I have got a few selections of the things that have definitely caught my eye.  Continue reading “Preview: VAULT 2017”

Review: The Mystae, Hampstead Downstairs

“What’s the word for illusion…when it’s shared”

Whatever they’re smoking down at the Hampstead Downstairs, I approve and would like some. The Mystae (rhymes with fisheye, kind of) continues the more experimental feel that The Blackest Black started 2014 off with and features one of the more intriguing set designs that you will see this year. The play is set in an ancient Cornish sea cave where three teenagers have gathered to conduct a ritual before they scatter off to universities and jobs and somehow, Georgia Lowe has managed to carve an effective rock formation in the ground of Swiss Cottage, complete with ominously rising tidal waters.

Technically, The Mystae is a pretty smashing piece of work even before any actors get on stage (or climb into the cave). John Leonard’s sound design brings the soothingly persistent sound of the sea to life (and later echoes brilliantly across the space), Simon Opie’s lighting suggests the secrets and surprises that could lie in any shadowy nook or cranny, and Tim Carroll’s production sparkles with excitement from the off. That it is then backed up by a nifty piece of writing by Nick Whitby is especially pleasing, a moody meditation on the intense emotional pull of this time of great change. Continue reading “Review: The Mystae, Hampstead Downstairs”