Wood, Vault Festival

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By Romy Foster

It’s 1983. We are introduced to the ‘It’ man of the moment in the Hollywood porn scene, John Rolando (George Fletcher). The stage is set up like a studio – lights, camera, action – and we eagerly await the reveal of the man of the hour.

We’re left waiting for him. Director Larry (played by Philippa Hogg) bellows to him that the crew are running out of time, so get a move on and come out of his dressing room. He arrives, tall and handsome. there’s just one problem. He can’t get a hard on. Hilarity ensues as the crew and an actress eagerly encourage him to get a boner whilst he stares blankly into the audience, furiously beating a bike pump to mimic masturbating. The audiences love it.

We follow this story of John and his thriving porn star girlfriend Taylor (Claire Cartwright), who suggests he live off her earnings as she is very much in demand and he’s essentially washed up. After an explosive scene where a waitress in the background (Nneka Okoye) attempts to make her boring role more interesting, the scene breaks and four actors are revealed in rehearsals for their play about John Rolando.

It is here we see a shift in themes, with toxic masculinity, genderless casting, the patriarchy and feminism emerging. Fletcher (although begrudgingly) hands over his role of John to the waitress who brings a quieter, engaging side to the character as opposed to Fletcher’s loud and brash take. Playing opposite Cartwright, a unique and interesting dynamic emerges that is exciting for both of them. Fletcher and Hogg take on the roles of the narrator, and are both inventive and captivating storytellers.

A highlight of the piece is Fletcher launching a long-winded monologue about how feminism is important, how much of an ally he is and how it is essential to break down barriers and stereotypes, when in reality he doesn’t know what on earth he’s talking about and just wants to be seen. The audience roar as we have all seen this type of behaviour all too often.

This really showcases some excellent new writing from Adam Foster and creative direction by Grace Duggan.

The performance is exciting, though ends somewhat abruptly. I hope the company are taking this further into development and as the future is bright for this show. It could easily be a full-length play.

WOOD runs through 3 March.

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