Pros: A thought-provoking and exceedingly hilarious piece of modern theatre.
Cons: This is not the show for you if you’re looking for a play which you can mindlessly consume without thinking too much.
The play follows our somewhat unlikely protagonist Simon, played by the writer himself Eli Kent, a man who loves video games, films, running, his three rats and essentially anything that takes his mind away from the recent loss of his father to motor neurone disease. His seemingly mundane life is constructed and manipulated by three employees (Joel Baxendale, Victoria Abbott and Hamish Parkinson) who work under the instruction of an omnipotent narrator, visually represented by a light bulb. Simon’s life suddenly becomes evermore confusing when he receives an empty box, and on his quest to find its origin encounters a series of strange events. This leads him to eventually face up to his grief, but not in the conventional way that you might expect.
Understandably this all sounds very confusing and admittedly, it somewhat was, but the execution of this incredible play allowed me to accept the scenario presented and completely immerse myself into the story.
The set was in essence a giant white box with slots and zippers through which the employees inserted characters into Simon’s life and controlled the situation. This minimalism allowed the lighting to really stand out and make an impact in the more hectic and bizarre scenes, and there were quite a few! The side stage areas were littered with the usual production paraphernalia of props, audio equipment and scripts, but unlike in the average play this area was also used for performance. As an audience member it really felt like they were overstepping typical theatre boundaries by moving into this space. The entire layout of the show was wonderfully original and entirely effective. Moreover, the sound beautifully drew scenes together, aiding the flawless flow of the play from one strange encounter to the next.
The surreal nature of the play calls upon its audience to think about reality as a concept, and trust me I’ve had many an existential thought process stemming from the storyline since seeing the play! Its clever social commentary paired with familiar film and music references invites audiences to relate to a somewhat abnormal situation and invest in all the characters immediately. Deep as this story seems, it does not go even 10 minutes without cracking an outrageously funny joke. The whole room echoed with laughter continuously through the performance, which is a difficult feat in modern theatre.
Complimenting this abstract and aesthetically immaculate play was the venue in which it was shown. Having never been to The Vaults before I was absolutely taken aback by its secluded and beautiful location; I felt like I’d found a secret wonderland in Central London! Directly underneath Waterloo Station and with an entrance situated in the middle of a breathtakingly stunning graffiti tunnel, The Vaults is undoubtedly the most extraordinary venue I’ve come across and felt like the perfect place to display this type of experimental play.
Author: Eli Kent
Director: Robin Kerr
Producer: Molly O’Shea
Booking Until: Sunday 6 March 2016
Box Office: 0871 220 0260
Booking Link: http://www.vaultfestival.com/