Alice, VAULT Festival

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by Amber Pathak

Smoke fills the room, we’re all sitting upright in stiff wooden pews, and in the distance a steady drip echoes off the walls. Is this part of the show or is there a leak in the roof? I wonder. Either way it’s very atmospheric.

A spotlight pierces the darkness, illuminating her. As she goes on, it feels more like a sermon. There is a holiness about the whole effect that is totally compelling.

An Azerbaijani-British girl tries to explore and understand her identity through telling us the story of her parents’ meeting. At its core, the boy-meets-girl story has been done an untold number of times in every medium possible, but using this narrative to tell the story of our main character Alice is an exciting take on feminism. 

The director has thrust the stage out through the audience – an interesting choice. Whilst it allows the characters to be viewed up close by some, it also means each person has a very different experience. For example, I can clearly see emotive expressions when many of the rest of the audience would have only seen the actor’s back.

The overall performance is good, though some parts are lacking in characterisation. In these moments, there is a disengagement from what is going on. Yet, the play is still successful in sharing its message. Considering the current climate of identity politics, a story like this could not come at a more appropriate time. This is how to have a peaceful and meaningful conversation about identity, the kind that is actually helpful in the process of bringing change.

Alice runs through 1 March.

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