The Club, VAULT Festival

By guest critic Martin Pettitt

Set in a dingy nightclub office in the late 1990s, owner George is battling to save his club, Tardis, on its busiest night of the year. As the club is set to be filled with celebrities, he is stuck between his overdue rent payments and the money he owes to gangster Dave Sharky. Joined by friend and tenant Nick, they try to come up with a solution to the ever-worsening situation.

The stage set consists of a table littered with various paraphernalia: bottles of alcohol, drugs, a teddy bear and a mounted dildo. The action takes place in this space over the period of a night where everything is at stake. George is a well-travelled fraudster and neurotic and Nick is an artist obsessed with making plaster casts of ladies arseholes – the juxtaposition makes for a fun dynamic.  

There are plenty of things to like here. The script is very well-observed with the characters throwing out plenty of pertinent 1990s references that are enjoyable when they land, but not necessary for appreciating the play. It captures that late 1990s atmosphere very well – that vaguely paranoid optimism of waiting for something to come along and wake them from the dream of the last 10 years. In the play this person is Dave Sharkey, who has a reputation for doing nasty things with expanding builder’s foam if he doesn’t get his money. The humour in the piece is often crude but taken with the character-driven narrative, it never comes off as gratuitous. With the presence of a mounted dildo this is quite a skill.

The acting is great, there is not a moment that the story isn’t absorbing. This is all about the characters, and with a potential cast of many who are described in the piece, or present just outside the door, the 2 actors do a great job of rendering such a complex array of relationships. The story and action is gripping and funny in turn, and as the characters become more and more desperate they reveal their hidden depths subtlety and convincingly.  The characters are so good they threatened to transcend the piece; there is definitely more mileage for further development and continued adventures.

All in all, a very entertaining evening. the only issue is that the hour running time flies by so quickly the ending comes off as rather abrupt. It feels that there is so much more to say and the story is thwarted by the allotted time schedule rather than a being given a more organic, logical ending.

The Club runs through 5 March.

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