Nina, an achingly cool yet awkward young Londoner, wasn’t expecting to meet Gabriel at a BBQ in Tooting, but she does. Their burgeoning relationship seems perfect. Descriptions of dates, parties, meeting each others’ families and moving in together feel natural and healthy, until things start to deteriorate. Moments that were previously joyful become tense, and physical affection is now forceful. As much as this is a monologue about falling in love, it’s also a piece about its deterioration into abuse and finding a way out.
George Floyd’s murder in 2020 was the catalyst for worldwide Black Lives Matter protests against systemic racism. Though at the time white governments, institutions and individuals made loud commitments to fight racial injustice, there has been a lack of meaningful change since then. By drawing on numerous recent and historical acts of violence against Black people, theatremaker Christopher Tajah’s solo performance reinforces just how deeply racism runs in white supremacist societies.
What is love? Riham Isaac wants to know, so she turns to music, old films, interviews, and religious and secular iconography to find out. She in turn shares a collection of ideas of what love is, isn’t or what it might be. The result is a highly visual, multimedia cabaret presenting an international, era-spanning collage of love and romance.
This one-person show one uses technology to a great degree, with its story of a vlogger living through some form of disaster that has left her by herself, with only access to technology and a dwindling food/drink supply. This had obvious parallels with the lockdowns during the Covid pandemic, and is certainly a situation the audience is able to empathise with.
Laughter is an infiltration strategy, and Liv Ello surely knows it. Part heavy-handed satire, part side-splitting clown show, this is a highly confrontational solo piece. The show uses humour to break down barriers and get audiences to face difficult topics around migration, politics and compassion.
This is a fascinating one-woman show, aptly timed for the valentines season, exploring facets of love and obsession. Following Faith, expertly played by Faith Brandon, in her quest for love, this is a highly entertaining and compelling look at one woman’s descent into obsession.
Amidst VAULT Festival’s craziness, The Motion Packs’ movement-led work casts a contemplative spell, causing reflection on the effects of having obsessive, work-driven lives. This one-man physical theatre piece brews slowly, with contemporary dance accompanied by a soundscape combining poetic audio clips, instrumental scores led by the eerie resonance of a piano, and calming sounds of nature. The show has English and Welsh versions, and I experienced it in the latter. While the Cavern’s acoustics and a poorly-equalised volume make it difficult to understand the poetry, the dreamlike soundscape and a soft, unhurried voice create a comforting aural experience, even for non-Welsh-speakers.
Taking the cam-girl to a whole new level, Sad-Vents follows Eleanor Hill as she broadcasts her life journey to her Instagram followers from her messy bedroom. Surrounded by girly paraphernalia (condom wrappers, pregnancy tests, magazines, and the sweaters of her exes), Eleanor takes us on a 75-minute long monologue which explores topics such as abuse, loss, toxic relationships and sexuality through the lens of dark comedy. The title is entirely adequate; imitating the self-indulgent and voyeuristic nature of online venting, the play invites us to reflect on the consequences, trivialities and dangers of online commodification.
Storytelling – the simple kind where a small group of people sit in the dark and simply share wild and wonderful tales – is an inherent part of being human. In this instance, combining this instinct with improvisation, and audience interaction results in a story following a group of friends trying to find their way out of a plane crash. The audience is the group of friends, and Joe Strickland quietly narrates the set-up. Soon, Strickland introduces a chose-your-own-adventure type of moment that leads to many more. The concept is fun and the audience enthusiastically engages, but the execution raises questions about audience autonomy and the limits of improv.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the theatre industry interrogated rehearsal room dynamics and called for them to become ‘safe spaces’ where people are free from abuse. Whether or not productive change has actually occurred is up for debate, but this show proclaims that the concept of a safe rehearsal is highly subjective – what is safe for one person may not be for another. In this energetic and highly sensorial piece, actor/writer Rhys Hastings considers how growing up in an abusive home impacts all aspects of his life, including his acting work.