VAULT Festival 25 – 29 January. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
RedBellyBlack’s stunning production asks the question “where do you see yourself a year from now?” of 14 real people. The answers received are moving and inspiring, and presented in a fascinating and poetic production.
The cast of five begin by introducing themselves in a slightly cheesy manner and then lose themselves and their voices in the characters’ interviews. The actors lip-synch to the recorded voices, but this becomes less and less obvious as the production progresses, with perfect timing and expressive performances making it hard to believe that the cast themselves are not speaking. The interviewees range from a boisterous 4 year old to new parents to an elderly couple just grateful for every day. Oscar Scott-White’s beautifully nuanced portrayal of an old lady is full of dignity and faded glamour, while Jessica Warshaw’s brash and outwardly confident woman delivers a devastating final thought with a haunting look at the audience. Some sequences are solo, some paired, and some have what can only be described as backing dancers. As the story unfolds, choreographed movements complement the words and rhythms – to comic effect when a teenager is proclaiming the need for good eyebrows, and heart-breaking emotion as a man describes the loss of his mother while the actors physically support and hug each other in a twisting pas de deux.
Grief, loss, responsibility and fear are explored, and a four-hander sequence of survivors of stroke, cancer and brain injury is an inspirational celebration of human fragility and potential. The ways the damaged people have learned to deal with the sudden change to their life is not sugar coated and the fear and regret in their voices is palpable as they look to the future with a “keep calm and carry on” attitude that we see every day.
When people talk about issues like this, they defend themselves with humour, and there are some great laughs in this show, interspersed with the hypnotic movement and sniffle inducing moments. The show brushes over the celebrity curse of 2016, and the political situation, but doesn’t dwell on these issues, instead focussing on the small (but huge) personal, human stories to be told, and telling them in an imaginative, respectful and entertaining way.
The general answer to the question asked seems to be alive and happy. That’s not much to ask for, is it?