Written and performed by Bebe Sanders, Snail is a comic exploration of an overachiever’s mental health, unravelled with a surrealist touch. Through the eyes of Sylvie, a young teacher striving for a promotion, the story lays out the impact of intense work ethics and a tendency towards toxic positivity.
Theatre of Gulags tells a story of art and resistance within USSR labour camps. Panning across five detached, yet narratively linked stages, this theatrical installation follows the story of four artists: theatre director Les Kurbas, director Natalya Sats, musician Vadim Kozin and writer and puppeteer Hava Volovich.
As elder Gen Zs approach their mid-20s, it makes sense that they turn to comedy to cope with what seems like the never-ending apocalyptic disasters plaguing their brief adulthood. Writer/comedian Rosalie Minnitt has tapped into her generation’s resulting anxiety by condensing what seems like all early-20-somethings’ tropes into an unhinged character piece set “sometime in the past”. Utterly bizarre and nonsensical, the title character is on an absurd quest to marry as soon as possible so that she avoids her parents disappearing her, but this is a thin narrative that’s really just a vehicle for Minnitt’s jokes.
Roman emperor Caligula has provided numerous artists with inspiration, and this year’s Vault Five artist Yuxuan Liu is no different. He has devised a new interpretation of Caligula’s story particularly focusing on the ruler’s megalomania, his queerness, and a bargain he made with Neptune as a young man in exile on Capri. Puppetry and set design effectively complement the script, and the prominent theme of nature’s power resonates strongly in the context of the climate crisis.
This three-character play deals with the aftermath and grief following the disappearance of Gavin, Phoeb’s husband. She returns to the farm she grew up on, where her half-sister Jude and Jude’s husband Brian are trying to eek out a living, despite not being suited to being farmers. To cope with her grief, Phoeb believes Gavin has returned as a hummingbird, and starts building wings to join him in flight. However, the tensions between the trio soon begin to bubble to the surface.
This a one-man show, with the aid of props and sound design, ostensibly tells the story of ABC Merriman-Labor, an African satirist who wrote a scathing story of a Black man living in London after coming from Sierra Leone. This particular production, however, jumps around in time to tell the story of the production of the play from the perspective of the actor as well, and how the play’s subject of ABC’s forbidden love for his friend John Roberts mirrors the actor’s own relationship with Alfred, the shows own writer.
Billed as a work-in-progress, this is a four-person play set in 17th century France, based on the true story of ‘La Voisin’, otherwise known as Catherine Montvoisin, a female poisoner who was said to have murdered thousands of people in Paris. The play centres around the concept of a police recreation of what happened when one of King Louis’s mistresses hires Montvoisin to make the king first fall in love with her, and then when that doesn’t work, to attempt to poison him. The four actors both act out the events of what was purported to happen during the time frame of the events in question, and in a metatheatrical twist, question the nature of the story being written and its validity.
Saint Hildegard von Bingen was a prolific polymath – a theologian who advised many religious higher-ups in the Catholic church, a composer, a writer of scientific and rhetorical works, a linguist, an abbess and a religious visionary. Though she lived over a millenium ago in the late 1000s and early 1100s and was – of course – largely at the whims of the men around her, she strove for more independence for herself and her nuns so they could worship how they best saw fit. A multigenerational ensemble use text, music and physical theatre to focus on this part of her life, positioning her as a liberating protofeminist in a strikingly beautiful, highly sensory piece.
In the most supportive of circumstances, grief can feel insurmountable. It’s even harder for a young queer Londoner whose family is in Zimbabwe. How does Takura ensure her Mbuya is mourned properly and what is her relationship to her ancestors, anyway? In a space somewhere between clubbing, Co-star, quantum physics and ancient rituals, she improvises building a bridge to the ancestral plane. A vulnerable and exposing struggle with borders and contrasting cultural norms, this is a considered reflection on how we deal with a loved one’s death.
In each of the three unrelated scenes that make up this triptych, a different Emily and an Emile tackle big ideas. Two flatmates argue about class privilege, a pair of flight attendants mull over love and confronting fears, and grief dominates the conversation between a man and his dead boyfriend’s sister. Each scene has some strong moments and the issues are prescient, but the writing quality varies and it’s unclear why these particular stories are produced together.