Don’t Leave Me This Way, VAULT Festival

by Laura Kressly

Ildiko is half German and half Hungarian. Rosie is half English and half Irish. The two women explore what this might mean, along with how culture, ancestry and migration, make us who we are. Their journey takes the form of an elegant cabaret similar to vintage variety TV shows. Traditional music and folk songs intersperse poignant extracts of personal narrative to make this moving patchwork of stories and anecdotes that make them who they are.

For the most part, the show’s short scenes and sketches tightly cohere into a reflective whole. Appropriate to cabaret, they are highly performative – both Rosie and Ildiko navigate questions about what makes them who they are in situations resembling talk show interviews or beauty pageants. There’s a pronounced pressure for them to prove their background, but they simultaneously struggle to connect with their heritage. Rosie, whose mum came to England as a young child, goes to Ireland to find her roots but feels nothing. Ildiko takes a dance class in Budapest but struggles to follow it because she doesn’t speak her mum’s native language, Hungarian. This sense of feeling lost, or being in between multiple times and places, runs through the show.

Unfortunately, it’s also occasionally present in the dramaturgy – a couple of sections don’t fully fit the otherwise thematically-tight concept. One where the meaning isn’t clear is a stand-alone bit where they name random years and numbers of points. The ending pushes beyond the limits of the consistently-explored theme of a person being shaped by time and place, even though it’s a lovely tribute to a colleague. On the whole, however, this is a cohesive, polished consideration of the relationship between migration and identity.

Don’t Leave Me This Way runs through 29 January.

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