The Lock In, VAULT Festival

It’s St Patrick’s Day at an Irish pub in London. We’ve been there for awhile, but the night is young. There’s a five-strong band more focused on arguing the facts of Irish history than playing music. This becomes the story – drunken frontman Eamonn (Ian Horgan) attempts to tell us the story of the venerable saint. Numerous diversions, interaction, songs and plenty of banter follows a convoluted path through the power of storytelling, national identity and the veracity of history.

We are led through the twisting story – or collection of stories – of Niall of the Nine Hostages, a prehistoric Irish king that may or may not have existed. The episodes from his life that we hear are certainly the stuff of legends and make for entertaining anecdotes. Some of these touch on vulnerable elements of the characters, which are more interesting than the stories themselves.

The issue with The Lock In is that this format isn’t enough to sustain the piece. There’s plenty of superficial humour and laughs to be had but on exiting the theatre, there’s a lingering, unspoken question: well, what was the point of that, then? That’s not to say the show isn’t enjoyable – it absolutely is, but there’s limited thematic exploration.

Horgan is funny and charismatic, though his bolshiness makes some of the more timid audience members uncomfortable when he interacts with them. His improvisation is on point, totally blending with his unfiltered characterisation. He dominates the other four performers, but there are lovely hints of tension that are a treat when they appear.

The Lock In is certainly enjoyable, but it doesn’t tap into the depth that it could. The performances are great and the script is believably organic but it leaves a lingering emptiness.

The Lock In runs through 5 March.

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