August Strindberg’s expressionistic A Dream Play has inspired theatre makers since it’s debut in 1901. In the otherworldly Vaults, BAZ Productions reinvents the innovative work for a modern audience. A collage of loosely connected characters flit back and forth through time and space, never quite fully formed but too visceral to be wholly in the mind. This is no linear, unified world, but one that traverses several planes of existence. Live music and interaction fosters inclusivity, though some of the content is far from warm and cuddly. This dreamplay is certainly surreal and atmospheric, but overly broad themes and the lack of a strong through-line makes for a generalised moodiness that leaves little lasting impact beyond striking imagery.
Laura Moody’s acoustic cello and operatic vocals add richness and depth to the piece, and are the most striking feature of dreamplay. Even the softest tones echo through the Vaults’ tunnels and quite possibly still linger there in the darkness. There is not enough music to form a soundtrack, but any more of her music would cause it to lose its impact.
Four actors form the rest of the ensemble cast who take on multiple roles. With impressive CVs behind each of them, their performances are suitably engrossing even though the script’s scenes deliberately evade connection to others. Jade Ogugua particularly entrances as the non-verbal dancing girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, and Jack Wilkinson’s stage door keeper elicits laughter from his attempts to wrangle defiant performers.
The script has lovely individual moments that are beautifully realised fully formed by director Sarah Bedi, but beyond satisfying visual appetites, it lacks substance. The text draws the audience in, but after we are spit back onto the surface of Lower Marsh, it mostly fades. Flickering images remain as if on deteriorating film stock, but with no coherent message – a disappointing effect after such striking execution, even if this is reminiscent of a dream.
dreamplay runs through 1 October.
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