VAULT Festival is a place to try new things. Experiment. Develop. Succeed. And fail.
Boy, does Say Something Happened fall into the latter of these aims. This revival of Alan Bennett’s short play – an odd programming choice for such an experimental festival – is a mere 45 minutes. But it feels like I emerge from the show several days later what with how shockingly terrible the performances are.
The three-hander about an idealistic social services worker interviewing an elderly couple for the council’s new register of OAPs probably has something to say about isolation of the elderly within local communities, and the divide between generations. But that’s all but lost within a pace and delivery more akin to a badly programmed robot than human speech.
The acting is either entirely over-egged or flat. The performer playing the council worker is unable to communicate anything resembling genuine human emotion – she pulls an array of faces instead, accompanied by speech so fragmented it’s nearly impossible to follow.The performers playing the older couple are marginally better, if only because they have fewer lines and less nervous dispositions. It’s a painful experience to endure.
The festival can certainly be hit and miss, especially with 400-odd shows spanning eight weeks. But Say Something Happened has missed by so far, it feels more like a poor amdram effort than a work trying to comment on any of the themes it addresses.
Say Something Happened runs through 4 February.
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We discover H P Lovecraft, cult horror writer from Providence, Rhode Island, standing on the banks of the Providence River in 1910 threatening to drown himself. In an It’s A Wonderful Life-style intervention, the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe (Dominic Allen) arrives to try to talk him around. We then flash forwards through the rest of Lovecraft’s life in this biographical comedy, with Poe helping him along the way.
It sounds like a strange idea for a play, but it’s a suitably bonkers device for a show about a weird man who wrote very weird tales.
On arrival at Bethnal Green Town Hall, we are split into groups, given a key each, and then given the opening spiel. Ben, a secret love child of Michael Caine and Marilyn Monroe, was raised by the hotel staff in the 60s at the behest of its owner to save the stars from a scandal.
Last summer, New York’s Shakespeare in the Park made international news with its production of Julius Caesar, updated to contemporary America with Caesar looking rather suspiciously like Trump. When the right wing press got wind of it, protests outside the theatre ensued.
Fortunately, this is much less likely at Nick Hytner’s similarly Trumpified Caesar. Unfortunately, his look at the devision between the ignorant, poor right and educated, middle class left is a simplistic and occasionally wildly inaccurate comparison to real life partisan policies.
The Pretend Men return with a ridiculous sequel to their action-packed police parody. Don’t worry if you missed the first one – you should still get a ticket to this! Done with parodying cop shows, we now get references to The Terminator, Blade Runner and Star Wars – to name but a few of the references.