Save + Quit, VAULT Festival

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Joe and Steph are two lonely Londoners, and Cara and Dylan are dealing with grief in Dublin. The four young people, in two pairs of intertwined stories, disclose their anxieties and struggles in narrative monologues that are strong examples of moving storytelling. But they are only loosely linked thematically, and there is little that conveys a wider reason for placing these characters within the same work. The stories command attention as do the performances, but the question of why they are presented together never disappears.

Joe (Eddie Robinson) and Steph (Josie Charles) don’t know each other at all. Joe’s a north London bartender now living south of the river and trying to get over a recent breakup. The death of his father still lingers large in his mind, as does his ageing mum. Steph’s a recent transplant from the north, living in Tottenham and teaching in an impoverished school in Barking. She hasn’t really made any friends, but has unwavering passion for her work. Both performances are solid but Joe’s story is more compelling. Unfortunately, their chance meeting comes much too late and doesn’t serve as a functional resolution to either of them. There’s certainly a longer play here, but one that is underserved by Save + Quit‘s format.

Cara (Niamh Branigan) and Dylan (Michael Kiersey) have a more intimate story following the unsatisfying ending of the previous character set, and this one also feels like an incomplete version of a larger work. Having met in college, the two soon become inseparable friends until a discrepancy between their levels of privilege causes huge damage. The moments of direct interaction add more variation and make this story the better one for it. They also have some great intimacy, and there’s something reminiscent of Dirty Great Love Story in this pair. The truncation of the ending is also a letdown, and there is no connection to the previous character pair whatsoever.

Writer Sophie Leuner clearly has plenty of great character ideas that work well on stage and an innate sense for narrative storytelling, but choosing to put these people within the same framework makes the piece look more like a student showcase than a complete play. Even though the four young people are each battling their own demons, there’s not enough to warrant putting them together in the same piece, and any intended message is rendered indecipherable.

Save + Quit runs through 12 February.

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