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Empty Vessels, Rosemary Branch Theatre – Review

Pros: Clever and humorous dialogue and break neck pace make for an entertaining evening with this funny new play. Great performances from the cast too.

Cons: A couple of misplaced queues and slight timing issues knock a star off this otherwise excellent play.

Pros: Clever and humorous dialogue and break neck pace make for an entertaining evening with this funny new play. Great performances from the cast too. Cons: A couple of misplaced queues and slight timing issues knock a star off this otherwise excellent play. Eric (Ben Warwick) is spending some time staying with a friend in Greece whilst he tries, and fails, to write the fantasy novel he longs to write. But first he wants to undertake some field research, and this involves ‘buying’ four souls. However, the degree of research he undertakes is slightly beyond what he anticipated when a…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A witty and clever new play that explores the relationship between reality and fantasy with a great cast.

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Eric (Ben Warwick) is spending some time staying with a friend in Greece whilst he tries, and fails, to write the fantasy novel he longs to write. But first he wants to undertake some field research, and this involves ‘buying’ four souls. However, the degree of research he undertakes is slightly beyond what he anticipated when a gorgeous, mysterious young woman appears wishing to buy one of the souls. The ensuing events are very funny, as the souls of various characters are transferred from one body to another, and the remaining cast have to deal with the outcomes (and the hollow shells of those devoid of their souls.)

Watching Eric and reality television star Travis (Tobias Deacon) debate the nature of reality and fantasy right at the start of the show gives you a taste for how funny this play is going to be. But it goes beyond funny – as all good comedy should – and strikes at some of the real issues modern life presents. Farcical at times, and inducing some good belly laughs from the audience, this play also manages to challenge us to think about the lives we lead and whether the ideas we fantasise about are really worthy of our time; or if indeed we are already, in some way, living the fantasy.

All four actors give strong performances. Deacon, Hannides and Walton take it in turns to give us their samples of Welsh accents, and very funny they are too! But it is Warwick at the centre of the show who really carries the piece. He has an excellent ability to transition from the light-hearted moments to the slightly more serious (and I mean slightly, because even at its darkest this is hardly Medea…), and Eric’s confusion at the unfolding events is excellently portrayed. Deacon pulls off the egotistical superiority of his reality television star with aplomb, to the degree that if I’d seen him in the pub afterwards I definitely would have had something to say to him…

The show is fast – a lot of plot is crammed into the hour and twenty minutes playing time. The performers all manage excellently to keep up with the lightning fast direction and snappy scrip. It was extra special to watch the show move along at such a pace within the intensity that the small theatre space at Rosemary provides.

Black box theatres across the city have been filled with all manner of sets over the years but the Grecian columns, building blocks and vegetation of the Empty Vessels set is very imposing considering the small size of the theatre. And that’s not to say it’s over crowded: the set serves its function as well as looking pretty impressive. In fact, apart from one slightly mis-timed lighting queue, the technical aspects of the show were great, especially the thoughtfully placed transitional music. These only helped contribute to a lovely parcel of theatrical pleasure, and one I’d definitely recommend.

Writer: Greg Freeman
Director: Ken McClymont
Booking Until: 17 October 2015
Box Office: 020 7704 2730
Booking Link: http://www.rosemarybranch.co.uk/index.php/programme/now-playing-coming-up

About Rachel Proctor

Rachel Proctor
Having intermittently been reviewing since the formation of ET, Rachel is currently taking a year off from working as a doctor to go back to University and study Medical Humanities, in an effort to basically do that English degree she didn’t have a chance to do at medical school. It does mean there is plenty of time to get back into seeing loads of theatre in London, which she can basically pass off as further studying. She’ll watch pretty much anything, with a penchant for an odd venue and anything with pretty lighting design.