Tomorrow Creeps, VAULT Festival

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by Laura Kressly

I’m a big fan of Golem!’s approach to theatrical storytelling, and they’re a big fan of my review of their last production – so much so that their primary pull quote is one I wrote. It tops their programme, their press release and their festival listing. So it saddens me to say that Tomorrow Creeps pales in comparison to their I Know You of Old on which I lavish heaps of praise.

There are absolutely some cracking ideas at work, and I’m still all over the company’s approach to deconstructing Shakespeare and reappropriating his language, but there are several issues this time around that hinder understanding. It’s visually and aurally striking, but often textually unclear.

Like their previous shows, writer David Fairs uses Shakespeare’s plays as source material to write an entirely new work. The technique is an incredible feat of dramaturgy and showcase of linguistic acrobatics. But one of the big problems with using Shakespeare’s most recognisable lines is that the audience will struggle to disassociate Shakespeare’s context from the action that’s unfolding before them.

Some of the witches’ dialogue from Macbeth opens the show, fostering an assumption that’s difficult to discard, even though two of the three characters are very much real and alive humans. Richard II’s monologues follow, delivered by a man in chains – is he a similarly deposed king? Is he Richard? We never find out.

There’s a man in prison, and another visits. The two are haunted by a female spectre accompanied by Kate Bush music. This is all we know until much later on (or you read the programme notes beforehand – and you shouldn’t have to do that to understand a play), and we still never learn their names or what led them to this place. With the specificity in Shakespeare’s language, clear given circumstances are needed in a new, derivative work or the audience will be fighting with their preexisting knowledge instead of surrendering to the show. A throughline does eventually emerge, but the justification behind the characters’ actions is never explained.

Director Anna Marsland does well to work with the script’s vagueness to create a fever dream of hallucinations and memories, though there are some physical sequences that are absurdly funny rather than moments where the actors can genuinely connect with each other. Sound designer Odinn Hilmarsson sculpts a rich, threatening atmosphere that helps keep tensions high even with the script’s narrative arc is taking its time to rise. The design and staging are the best features of this production by far.

Tomorrow Creeps, though wonderfully clever in its concept and construction, needs more textual support to fully communicate its story. David Fairs and the rest of the company are clearly gifted theatremakers and this piece has a lot of potential, but it’s not quite there yet and often at war with its own intentions.

Tomorrow Creeps runs through 28 January.

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