Pros: A delightfully cheeky, fun and clever play about contemporary issues in one of London’s coolest venues.
Cons: A more pertinent ending would have done the performance justice.
A little girl is trapped below the earth in a well shaft. Far above her, three journalists spin a story of sensation and woe, feeding on their subscriber’s desire to be shocked and moved. This is a sharp and humorous production by Scratchworks, presented as part of the six-week VAULT Festival in the labyrinthine tunnels underneath Waterloo station. A Fool’s Proof is a wonderful blend of acting, live music, coordinated movement and a sprinkle of puppetry – Scratchworks just seems, enviably, to do everything well.
It’s also a ton of fun. Laura Doble, Hannah Kamen and Alice Higginson are brilliant in their journalist roles, and it’s obvious that they really enjoy the performance. Doble plays Becky, an inexperienced, naïve media newbie who joins because she “loves newspapers” and becomes increasingly disillusioned with her new employer. Kamen is great as the strutting, unscrupulous boss and Higginson as a neurotic and grumpy proofreader, while Sian Keen convincingly conveys the terror that the little girl is facing.
Little do the journalists know, or care, what the true story surrounding the missing child actually is. The degree of the child’s physical cuteness and vulnerability is much more important for a commercially successful storyline, and their narrative becomes increasingly high-flung and heart-wrenching, until it collapses and reveals what it truly is. As an audience, we never find out where Penny is – we only know that the childlike screams coming from the well have been misleading, which leaves us with a terrible sense of urgency – she must still be trapped somewhere.
Neither the characters nor the premise is really new; there are countless plays that criticise the media’s thirst for the next sensational story. However, A Fool’s Proof’s format is refreshing, the writing witty and forceful, and the venue seems tailored to the play, especially when the lights go out and a train rumbles by far above. I loved the clever use of flashlights, which enhance the sense of claustrophobia and picked out particular actors to highlight an emotion or action.
One aspect that could be improved is the ending. While the whole performance is really sharp, the last bit, where naïve newcomer Becky meets her journalist hero – a woman who strives to report in an honest and sincere manner – could be better thought out and seems a bit flat. This is a very small quibble with an otherwise hugely enjoyable and thoughtful performance, a play that succinctly demonstrates the breadth of talent that the young theatre company has. Another perk is that, once you’ve wiped the tears of laughter out of your eyes and emerge out of the brick dungeon, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a fun and creative underground festival in which half of London seems to be crammed. Don’t miss it.
Writing, Directing and Production: Scratchworks
Booking Until: 1st February 2014
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