Pros: A uniquely atmospheric, and sometimes downright scary, show that takes you on a wander through the mysterious depths of the Waterloo vaults.
Cons: The dreamlike structure of the play makes it difficult to get more than a basic gist of what’s happening, and there doesn’t seem to be much point to the whole thing.
The best summary I could possibly give of my visit to BAZ Productions’ new show dreamplay is this: my companion for the evening and I walked out of the venue, looked at each other and said something along the lines of ‘what the hell did we just do?’
Let me tell you the few things of which I’m fairly certain: there’s Agnes, a goddess or angel or some other type of mythical being, who comes to Earth to discover why people are sad. She ‘incarnates’ into the body of a woman to experience life as a human being, and to look for the door behind which she hopes to find the secret that explains sadness. As for the rest . . . well, you’d have to ask cleverer critics than me.
Apart from the main concept, dreamplay also features scenes that seem to be completely detached from the rest of the show. There’s a bit of a French play within the play, in which the lead actress is controlled by cello music. At another point the audience is herded into a classroom, where we sit on the floor and sing about animals. Presumably this all contributes to the dreamlike structure and atmosphere of the production, although it’s a lot weirder than any dream I’ve ever had. (Just last night, I dreamt I went to buy frozen peas and forgot my wallet. Let’s hope no one will ever attempt to make a play out of that!)
The subterranean spaces of The Vaults, with trains rumbling into Waterloo Station overhead, contribute a lot to the kooky atmosphere of the show. There are moments when things get quite scary, particularly when the space is suddenly plunged into darkness. These moments are the show’s best; you could almost convince yourself you’re actually stuck in a dream (or nightmare) world.
The cast move about the place confidently and are adept at directing and leading the audience, which is a relief; I’ve been to plenty of promenade shows lasting much too long because of the difficulty in moving audiences around. The performances are solid as well, although I had too little sense of individual characters to say more than that. This, in fact, is an overarching theme in my experience of the show: the individual scenes are good, but it’s hard to tie them into a coherent bigger picture. Especially in the latter part, the proceedings start to drag a little and the play frustratingly circles back on itself. In the end, I walked out feeling none the wiser as to the point of dreamplay. Unless, of course, that was the point . . . I guess I’ll never know. Despite my reservations, this was absolutely a unique theatre experience and one that I’ll remember for quite some time to come. If you fancy a bit of an adventure, dreamplay is the place to be.
Original Author: August Strindberg
Adaptation By: Sarah Bedi and the company
Director: Sarah Bedi
Producer: Georgina Bednar
Box Office: 020 7401 9603
Booking Link: http://www.thevaults.london/dream-play
Booking Until: 1 October 2016