This Must Be the Place, VAULT Festival

by guest critic Nastazja Somers

“Home, is where I want to be / Pick me up and turn around / I feel numb, born with a week heart/ I guess I must be having fun”

David Byrne’s lyrics to ‘This Must Be the Place’, one of the biggest hits from Talking Heads, can be easily seen as the inspiration for the production of This Must Be the Place which, after playing at the Latitude Festival, is now at VAULT Festival. Acclaimed playwrights Brad Birch and Kenneth Emson target the themes of loneliness and belonging in a moving and captivating way. However, whilst the piece is also beautifully acted and directed, it lacks a certain precision in conveying its message.

When Adam (James Cooney) drops his phone into the Thames, he begins a journey out of London that sooner or later forces him to find ‘home’ and open up to his girlfriend Lilly. At the same time Tate (Feliks Mathur) and Matty (Hamish Rush) spend their last moments ‘home’ before embarking on their dream: a move to London.

Directed by Justin Audibert and Josh Roche, This Must Be the Place uses formulaic, basic storytelling to portray specific moments in the the lives of four millennials lost in between their own dreams, social media and relationships. The performers speak through microphones and the wires get more and more tangled throughout the piece, symbolising the connection between the four characters. There is a great use of the claustrophobic space and a clear change of narrative when the actors become the characters, yet the ambiguity of the piece seems to be accidental rather than purposeful.

There are stellar performances from everyone in the cast, making it a strong ensemble-driven piece. However even if This Must Be the Place is a story about men trying to escape their own emotions it doesn’t justify the one-dimensionality of Lilly. Unsurprisingly, the only female character in the piece is the most underdeveloped one, existing only in relation to the man. There is a lost potential there, as Molly Roberts shines in her performance and possesses an incredible stage presence.

Poignant and funny, This Must Be the Place is definitely an inquisitive and interesting production that examines many problems of the XXI century world, yet it is fair to say that without a clear objective behind the reason for telling this story, the work could gain from further development.

This Must Be the Place runs through 12 February.

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