Drenched, Vault Festival

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by Christina Bulford

A long raincoat and a tricorn adorning a nearly-sea-green hat stand set a scene of Cornish domestic bliss. The walls of The Pit drip, and the trains overhead roar like an angry sea. Daniel Drench, Cornwall’s most “prolific and unstable” storyteller invites us to breathe in and forget our busy days – but it’s a false and temporary lulling of our senses before he wakes us up, like a splash of cold sea water to the face.

Drench presents a tale as meandering as the river Truro. Haven’t heard of it? Then you probably won’t have heard of the dozen other Cornish places Drench name-checks in his opening gambit. He quickly establishes no one Cornish is in the house and his Cornish language phrases are utterly wasted on us. Is he really welcoming us with his words? Is he insulting our grandmothers? No-one here can tell – and that’s the point. The Vault tunnel with it’s graffiti spray paint, is “cool” he tells the room full of London-dwellers, and nods earnestly. He assumes (maybe correctly) that our only reference to Cornwall is Poldark. Well, that’s about to change.

But is he…for real? Does his ‘Cornish folk story’ contain even a drop of truth? Who can tell! Drench runs gleeful rings around our expectations of a rural narrative told by a self-proclaimed (and self-acclaimed) “storyteller”. “Come with me!” he bellows, “Stay with me!” He doesn’t just tell the story, he commands it, like a slightly unhinged cabaret compere. It’s uncomfortable in places and some of tonight’s audience seem to draw back (prompting more bellows of “stay with me!”). Thoughts of “Oh no. Oh God no. He’s going to… He’s going to… isn’t he?” are answered by a “yes, yes, he probably is.” There are certainly a few surprises along the way.

Performer Daniel Frost has a playful and insatiable energy to him, combined with an almost frightingly intense earnestness. It’s impossible to look away, and a testament to Frost’s acting that it’s hard to tell where Drench ends and Frost begins.

The lighting plays its part alongside the strangeness of Drench. A sunset plays across Dan Drench’s face, leaving him half lit, half in darkness. Moving? Hilarious? An accident? Once again, who can tell!

Parody is too broad a stroke to apply to Drenched; there is something more intelligent and altogether weird and wonderful at work here. Drenched is not at once as crystal clear as the shallows of the Scilly Isles, Drenched is offbeat and a little murky.

Drenched runs through 10 February.

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