Pros: Very impressive use of projection and a great set. This is an intriguing idea with room to grow.
Cons: Sight lines at the venue are a huge issue. The cavernous acoustics mean some dialogue is lost.
Space Play, showing as part of Vault Festival 2017, is a play set in space. Apologies for spoilers.
For me, there’s nothing quite like the atmosphere before a show. Queuing to enter The Vaults on a cold, wet night. I was warmed by an expectant audience, united in our desire for theatre.
The space is an interesting one. Suitably named, The Cavern is a huge cellar. Damp and echoing, pregnant with possibilities. I was ready to be transported into the void of space. Ready for a comedic journey of cosmic proportions. I was brought crashing down to earth by the fact that my eye line was occupied by a sea of heads. Despite being a tall chap and despite being sat in the sixth row, I spent most of the performance unable to tell what was going on. Occasional glimpses of Mark Knightley’s head suggested this might be a dynamic play, with physical comedy elements. For me it was effectively a radio play. I don’t want to labour the point, but a lack of raked seating cries out for the set to be raised. Of course there may be insurmountable logistical barriers behind all of this, but if an audience can’t see the play one has to question the value of staging it.
It’s a pity because Lauren Pratt’s set is an impressive edifice. It is easy to accept it as a space age module. An impressive backdrop to the colder corporate elements. Reminding one of the true stakes. Martin Dewar’s projections are a welcome touch, adding elements of engagement and isolation as and when the play demands. Costume (Jazmin Dervishali) is excellent and used in some imaginative ways.
To the plot. Michael is a Matt Damon wannabe, circa The Martian 2015. Contemporary artist-cum-pseudo astronaut, inadvertently responsible for the demise of his colleagues. He finds himself trapped on a commercial space station, attempting to prove himself worthy of saving to a company with financial rather than human priorities. Given that his reason for being there stems from nepotism and caprice, his fate appears dicey.
Flashbacks and flashy press conferences provide context to his strife. Harriet Madeley has excellent presence and does a spirited job of shaping the various women in his life, but is strongest as the coldly logical executive Magnolia. Mark Knightley is fraught and earnest as Michael but some of his dialogue is lost in the cavern.
The commitment and effort of the performers cannot be faulted. They had good energy but the on-stage relationships at times lacked chemistry. There were some strong comedic moments that had the audience laughing. I would be intrigued to see this again from a better vantage point. My advice, if you decide this play is for you, is to get there early and do the same.
Written and Performed By: Mark Knightley & Harriet Madeley
Producer: Brave Badger
Booking Until: 29 January 2017
Box Office: 020 7401 9603
Booking Link: www.vaultfestival.com