All Quiet On The Western Front, VAULT Festival

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By Zahid Fayyaz

First put on in 2015, this is a welcome return for Incognito Theatre’s adaptation of the novel and film of the life and trials of five German friends on the front during World War One. Fitting it all into an hour-long show is a tough task, but the five talented actors do extremely well to succeed in doing so. With minimal props and using the power of dialogue, they move from initial recruitment to punishing an overly arrogant corporal, to fighting on the front and being forced to reside in a military hospital.

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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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Frida Kahlo: Viva la Vida!, VAULT Festival

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by Bryony Rae Taylor

So many of us are guilty of idolising women without investing in their stories. Frida Kahlo’s memory is probably one of the most exploited in the art world. She’s on rucksacks; she’s on pencil cases; she’s perpetually immortalised on cotton tote bags. But how many of us have genuinely spent time learning about her? Maybe that’s too cynical, but the phrase ‘I love Frida Kahlo!’ has fallen out of my mouth on so many occasions when, actually, what do I know? Probably not enough.

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Oddball, VAULT Festival

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By Grace Bouchard

“It’s a sexy song about eating.” Francesca Forrestal says to the front row, before Oddball begins. She’s referring to “Bon Appetite” by Katy Perry that plays on a pre-set loop. At the same time, she’s limbering up – swinging her arms, chatting nonchalantly with the audience, and building a familiar relationship she carries throughout the performance – when the show has begun and latecomers enter halfway through one of her speeches, she unflinchingly welcomes them and instantly settles back into the script as though nothing happened. The ease with which she captivates and holds the room is enchanting in itself.

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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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Midnight Movie, Royal Court

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by Laura Kressly

Night can be a time of rest and escape, or mystery and danger where anything can happen. For people with chronic illnesses, vampires lurk in the darkness whilst those around you sleep. In the wee hours of the morning, playwright Eve Leigh seeks refuge online from her pain and corporeal limitations. Whilst it’s all too easy to condemn the downsides of an extremely online lifestyle, Leigh celebrates its ability to fly her around the world when her body lets her down. This millennial fever-dream of memories, horror stories and conspiracy theories blur the real and the internet’s dark corners as two actor/avatars and colour-soaked design convey the realities of a life punctuated by an uncooperative body.

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Dirty Crusty, The Yard

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by Laura Kressly

CW: sexual abuse, rape, suicide

Jeanine is in her early 30s and seems to have herself together, but her friends know better. Though she can hold down a job, a relationship and hobbies, she can’t manage to get a handle on cleanliness and hygiene. Not that this really comes across in this production, though. Jay Miller’s low-key, casual realism and a clean design contradict the filth that Jeanine is supposed to embody.

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Jade City, The Bunker

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by Laura Kressly

When Sas and Monty were kids, the world was full of possibility and adventure. Now that they’re grown, poverty, loneliness and their pasts have trapped them in Belfast, barely able to leave their flats. Infantilised by unemployment, they stay in and play pretend like they did as children. Whether its as bin men, Cuban revolutionaries or global travellers, The Game lets them ignore the harsh reality of the social and economic systems keeping them down. In Alice Malseed’s play, the past, present and imagined flow into each other like the lads’ days do, but Sas thinks its time they grow up.

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