Stages, VAULT Festival

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by Bryony Rae Taylor

This is an ambitious, interactive new video-game inspired musical, melding a tale of the trials and tribulations of a contemporary family with an 8-bit video game aesthetic. Each audience member is given a ‘controller’ (a bit of card which is blue on one side and red on the other), and at certain points in the narrative, they gets a say in what direction the plot turns. Towards the latter part of the show, the narrative rewinds and you see all of the alternative paths that could have been taken.

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Madame Ovary, VAULT Festival

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by Laura Kressly

Rosa’s been bloated and uncomfortable for about week, but she’s sure it’s nothing. She just needs to find some clothes that hide it, and are also suitable for a first date. A week after that, convinced the pain is something she’s eaten or trapped wind, she’s diagnosed with cancer. It’s 1 April 2018. She’s only 23 years old. Despite her hopes for it to be the year she sorts her life out, the reality is much more stark and scary.

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The Archive of Educated Hearts, VAULT Festival

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by Emma Lamond

The Archive of Educated Hearts shows a steely determination to deliver a hopeful and uplifting whirlwind tour through the lives of four women affected by breast cancer.  Casey Jay Andrews presents this deeply personal, yet painfully universal, experience with the utmost kindness and calm. This provides the audience with a space to celebrate the women who make up the narrative of the piece, and also take time to reflect on their own experiences of cancer.

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A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Gynaecologic Oncology Unit At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Of New York City, Finborough Theatre

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by Amy Toledano

Although this show has an incredibly long title, it is the only thing about it that feels drawn out. This comedy about a cancer ward in New York city is a touching tale of unlikely friendship and the broken relationships and the ways in which we forgive in the face of tragedy.

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Beginners, Unicorn Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

Kids are intuitive. They’re smart, observant and know a lot more about the world than adults think they do. Tim Crouch’s play where adults and children play each other and kids eventually run the show also proves that they aren’t that different from each other anyway. Whimsical design, innovative dramaturgical devices and an unwilling to patronise young people with obvious storytelling combine to create a marvellous and thoughtful piece of theatre for all ages.

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Bechdel Testing Life, The Bunker

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Women don’t always talk about men.
Women don’t always talk about men.
Women don’t always talk about men.

It bears repeating because it’s often forgotten, ignored or not believed. Popular culture is particularly deaf to the sentiment, and theatre still likes to rely on this inaccurate gender trope. Whilst this has been slowly changing for some time, particularly on the fringe, it’s still a problem.

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Team Viking, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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How far would you go for your best mate? Are there any limits, any lines, you wouldn’t cross?

What if your best friend was dying?

What if he asked you to ensure he had a viking funeral?

James Rowland does exactly that for his best friend Tom. He grew up as part of a neighbourhood trio that stayed close well into adulthood. As children, their favourite game was to play Vikings (as in the Kirk Douglas film). When Tom is diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 25 and given only a short time to live, he calls in one final favour from James and Sarah, the other third of their childhood gang. Tom doesn’t care about logistics and legalities, and his magnetic charisma convinces Sarah and James to do this for him, and James is here to tell us the story of their friendship through life and death.

Rowland’s engaging, laddish charm makes you laugh loads, then the tiniest change in pace and inflection turns on the tears. His script approaches death and friendship with respectful levity that does not gloss over the reality of grief, but neither is it too weighty. It’s a perfectly balanced emotional journey, and Rowland’s relaxed delivery draws the audience to him and to each other.

Director Daniel Goldman chooses simple staging – Rowland is on a small, bare stage with few props and tech, and the venue’s lighting is barely existent. The piece would work well in the round to foster it’s warmth and inclusivity. It’s simple, storytelling structure would also suit the intimacy of a circle.

Team Viking is an exemplary solo storytelling piece excelling in its honesty and simplicity. It’s a powerful tribute to his friends, but it’s not insular – it’s the complete opposite, and a truly delightful, heartwarming adventure story for those who have loved and lost.

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