The Boring Room, VAULT Festival

by guest critic Joanna Trainor

Nine characters, three stories, one not-so-boring room.

Loosely linked by themes of crime and mystery, The Boring Room is made up of three unusual pieces that finish moments before a satisfying ending. A door is about to open, a decision made, a body buried and the audience are plunged into darkness.

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The Grift, Bethnal Green Town Hall

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by guest critic Tom Brocklehurst

On arrival at Bethnal Green Town Hall, we are split into groups, given a key each, and then given the opening spiel. Ben, a secret love child of Michael Caine and Marilyn Monroe, was raised by the hotel staff in the 60s at the behest of its owner to save the stars from a scandal.

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Tryst, Tabard Theatre

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George Joseph Smith was a petty thief and con man who preyed on the most vulnerable women he could find. He would win their love, persuade them to elope, then strand them on their honeymoon after cleaning out their bank account. In exchange, these women who were lonely and insecure, would have a wedding night of bliss. He thought this was more than fair.

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Jury Play, Traverse Theatre

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by guest critic Liam Rees

Grid Iron and the Traverse Theatre’s new co-production Jury Play is a play of two halves with rather mixed results. Based on Dr Jenny Scott’s research into jury members’ experiences and how to improve them, director Ben Harrison and writer, Dr Jenny Scott, have decided that the best way to bring these issues to life is to cast the audience as the jury in a fictional murder trial.

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Thebes Land, Arcola Theatre

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A playwright wants to write a play about patricide, but with an actual criminal onstage instead of an actor. Initial research leads him to a young man called Martin Santos, serving consecutive life sentences in Belmarsh for killing his father. As weeks pass and the two men get to know each other, stereotypes and expectations are upended in this moving story of masculinity, violence and theatre.

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The Listening Room, Stratford East

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Can violent criminals be rehabilitated, and can their victims ever forgive them? The Listening Room says yes.

This verbatim piece tells the stories of three violent crimes, primarily from the perspective of the perpetrators. Some character background sets the scene for climactic moments where they commit their offences, but at least half of each of the five characters’ stories spotlights the rehabilitation process and mediation between the assailants and their victims.

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Eyes Closed Ears Covered, Bunker Theatre

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by guest critic Liam Rees

Alex Gwyther’s Eyes Closed, Ears Covered is a slippery play that continuously raises questions. We’re immediately presented with Alyson Cummins’ concrete-grey, angular set, suggestive of a brutalist play park in a rundown housing estate. A recording of a distressed phone call to the police about a pair of young boys and a terrible act of violence adds tension. Gwyther’s script immediately has us hooked with the right amount of specific details to suggest what may have occurred whilst not to revealing too much.

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