Pros: Well-written with some beautiful language.
Cons: Something felt lacking in the direction and stage design
The Vaults is a multi –disciplinary arts space, which sprawls out under Waterloo station. It features 30,000 square foot of accessible performance space made up of Victorian brickwork and abandoned 1970’s offices. Walking down a ramp off Lower Marsh road you are confronted with an underpass riddled with graffiti and for a moment it’s a little intimidating – and also a little unclear as to whether you are in the right place. Then you see a person clad in black with a clipboard and an earpiece talking firmly into their collar and beckoning at you, so you know you’ve probably arrived.
The venue is pretty rough and ready; it’s dark and dank with water seeping from the ceilings in sporadic slow drips. Intermittently you can hear trains thundering above you and it takes an age to walk to the toilets. It smells of damp and smoke machines. It’s got a definite vibe; that sort of trendy, hobbled together clandestine vibe. If this isn’t your kind of vibe I personally wouldn’t be put off giving it a go; the staff are friendly, the bar looks well stocked and there is popcorn on sale, which smells pretty good above the smell of damp! It may depend on what piece you go to see though as to whether you are actually impressed by the set-up of The Vault Festival.
Spark by Dissolve Theatre, is one a few productions showcased throughout the festival’s run, which ends on 8th March. It’s performed in one archway room alongside a few other shows in the same evening. It’s a new piece of writing by Chloe Mashiter and reworks the classic gothic ballad, Lenore. The entire piece is performed solely by Holly Campbell playing Leo. When Leo’s absent lover, Will, returns from conflict, she readily takes the opportunity to elope with him; embarking on a journey to the magical place where they first met. However before long she realises that all is not as it seems. Originally a 18th century story, this piece has a modern day setting complete with mobile phones, face wipes and a good soundtrack.
The piece is narrated by Campbell, with occasional direct addresses to a god-like figure above, the audience members and an imaginary Will. Campbell performs small magical illusions throughout and uses simple props and costume changes to assist her performance. Campbell is very good; her narration is well delivered and feels natural. She provokes some laughs and builds the world around her well through her performance .The writing is also very well done with some beautiful spoken moments; descriptions of the journey and the world around Leo and Will as they go.
Personally, though, I found it difficult to connect with this piece. Despite it only being 50 minutes long, it dragged a little. It felt like something was lacking in the stage design and direction. Given the beauty of the descriptive language perhaps more could have been done with the stage design to emphasise this and create more of a magical feel. After all Dissolve Theatre purport on their website to like immersive and interactive shows. There could also have been stronger attempts to draw on the roots of the story and the parallels with the gothic original. Moreover, for me, as it was, it felt that the adaption was a little tokenistic. I failed to see why it was brought to the modern day at all really. This was a shame, as the acting and writing was good.
Following this evening my overall impression of The Vaults Festival and Dissolve Theatre, thus far, is that it may be a case of style over substance. Perhaps the two don’t make a good combination. However, I would give each another chance as both had some very enjoyable elements.
Author/Director: Chloe Mashiter
Magic Consultant: Jon Armstrong
Producer: Dissolve Theatre
Booking Until: 8th February
Box Office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Booking Link: https://www.thevaultfestival.com/spark/