Space Play, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Michael Davis

In recent years, tales of space travel have been making more of an appearence in theatre. While the Royal Court showcased Alistair McDowall’s X last year, the Fringe scene has had mature, high-quality productions of its own – including Emily Holyoake’s Stasis and Curious Directive’s Pioneer. Space Play, which has been running at the VAULT Festival, looks at the aftermath of orbital collision with space debris, inspired by the events of the film Gravity.

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Daddy’s Girl, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Michael Davis

Prison dramas are practically a genre in their own right on television and the silver screen, but for the stage they are not so common (apart from in a historical context). Daddy’s Girl, which is directed by Alice Malin, focuses on Terry (Mark Wingett) –  in jail for life for armed robbery – and his adult daughter Eliza (Georgia Brown).

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A Year From Now, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Jo Trainor

“Two or three people with guitars call themselves a band, they’re a group!”

Red Belly Black Theatre Company asked fourteen people where they think they’ll be a year from now, and have used their voices to create an hour of witty, beautiful and moving theatre.

Lip-synced verbatim is a new experience for this reviewer, and if you’re not used to it there is a brief moment where you need to get on board with the style. Luckily Red Belly Black are so precise with their movements and mannerisms that it’s impossible not to love A Year From Now.

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Worlds, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Willa O’Brian

Housed in the studio space at the Vault Festival, which exudes graffiti-chic and pulls hip, supportive and discerning audiences, Bruised Sky productions presents Worlds, written and directed by Martin Murphy. Worlds opens with a nondescript pop song of the ilk that seems intended to tug on one’s heartstrings. The kind you hear over a montage of the hero of the rom-com sadly perusing photos of his ex-girlfriend when he has an epiphany about how to win her back. Needless to say, not an auspicious start, but we discover that one of the characters, Bas is a Dublin-boy living in London making a killing at being a musician, “mostly pop, really if I’m being honest with myself.” In a world where the number of downloads rather than emotional authenticity are the barometer to success, the track overlaying the opening is a rather fitting choice.

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The Subterranean Season, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Jo Trainor

A calcification called Danny Dyer, porn, truffle oil and guitar guns – PLAY Theatre company are back at the VAULT Festival after winning the People’s Choice Award last year. The Subterranean Season comprises of four writer/director teams and ten actors putting on a series of short performances. Although each of the four plays are independent, and different in substance and style, the patchwork production doesn’t feel jarring or disconnected. The energy on stage and the skill of the writers make The Subterranean Season a cohesive performance.

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Wayward, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Martin Pettitt

After enduring the disorganisation of the first night of Vault Festival, entering the performance space is an instant antidote. Through hallways of cluttered objects and draped fabrics, we are guided by the music into a cavernous, atmospheric space arranged with a hotchpotch of tables and chairs and twinkling decorations. This physical preamble is wonderfully relevant to the down-the-rabbit-hole story we are treated to.

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Politic Man, Ivy House

What with growing up outside of the UK, my knowledge of British history is quite patchy. I can tell you a lot about the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean eras when Shakespeare was alive, but outside of these time periods, I know little. I quite like social history, so learning about new-to-me historical figures through theatre is an event of joyous discovery. What with my leftie sentiments currently battered, encountering someone from the past committed to social justice and equality adds to the excitement even if the play has its shortcomings.

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Only Bones, Soho Theatre

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by guest critic Rebecca JS Nice

Short and sweet, classic and comical. Thomas Monckton performs a solo piece glued to his spot, centre stage beneath a low hanging lamp, which obscures his body from the shoulders up for at least half of the work. Only Bones is a classic example of body manipulation that playfully explores all the possibilities that a clown can find and make with only his body, one square metre of space, and one light. These creative boundaries have been stretched and tested but remain in performance to give the show a formal identity and context for Monckton’s shenanigans.

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Holding the Man, Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Tim Conigrave and John Caleo’s decade-spanning relationship was undoubtedly a gorgeous thing to behold. Meeting as school boys in 1970s Melbourne and staying together into the 1990s, their relationship was first documented in Conigrave’s memoirs and later adapted by Tommy Murphy for the stage. 

The coming-of-age story, though one that follows a predictable path once Conigrave decides they should sleep with other people, is potentially quite moving. But Murphy’s script is clumsy, with erratic pacing and hackneyed dialogue that lacks nuance. The cast consequently struggle to connect with their characters, making for a stumbling two and a half hours that feels more like the 15 years that Tim and John were together.

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Richard III, Rosemary Branch Theatre

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Bill Clinton once told Kevin Spacey that 99% of political thriller ‘House of Cards’ is real – a terrifying thought. Whether true or not, Spacey’s character Frank Underwood has clear parallels with Shakespeare’s Richard III what with the former’s ruthless climb to the US presidency. New company Godot’s Watch picked up on the similarity between the two rulers, taking inspiration from the tv series for their small-scale update to Shakespeare’s popular history play. Though the production has some canny choices, the concept comes across as a generic modern-dress adaptation with some pronounced weaknesses.

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