“I hope you’ve all read the Twilight books in preparation for tonight” declares Amelia Paltridge’s Izzy early into Untitled Sparkly Vampire Play. And whilst not addressed to the audience, but rather the imaginary book club she has set up, perhaps it would have helped a little to be more acquainted with the books that this charming dramedy sets itself around. I’m left bemused by the relevance of the lights flickering when Edward (Kate Valentine Crisp) mentions particular names, but there’s clearly a good reason for it, as the soft mumbles of amusement from the audience demonstrate.
The play revolves around Izzy’s love of the Twilight franchise. Now in her mid-twenties, she still clings to it like an emotional blanket. She imagines lead-vampire Edward in her fantasies, which are so strong that Edward appears at the most inappropriate moments. Except Edward is beginning to look remarkably like her friend Esther (also Crisp), causing confusion as she struggles to admit attraction to her female friend. And that is really where the play is taking us; into a confused mind where Izzy tries to address her sexuality, all whilst fantasy and reality blend a little too much to be perfectly healthy.
Paltridge’s Izzy is a complex character. One moment you are laughing and feeling her anguish, the next shaking your head at how crass and rude she is being. It’s a credit to Ashley Milne’s writing that she can flick emotions so quickly. The slow, downward spiral we witness Izzy go through is heart-breaking to watch because of it.
Where the production further works is simply in its pure charm. The early humour has the audience chortling along nicely, drawing us in. Then the pairing of Paltridge and Crisp, whether as real Esther or imaginary Edward, works wonderfully and is enough to build the whole play around.
There are some issues that hold the play back and would stop it appealing to a wider audience. I questioned if some scenes are actually required, and others simply go on too long. Work colleague Mason (Caidraic Heffernan) is seriously under-utilised; at times I wondered why he is even there. There’s a whole scene where Izzy describes what he does for an evening: it’s amusing but its purpose is unclear. I also yearned for further mention of their job as crime scene cleaners. It’s used for a few gags about blood and ghosts, but it does feel shoe-horned in just for those fleeting moments and so adds little else.
Then there is the microphone and the strange styling that sees Izzy dictating scenes into it. This happens regularly during earlier scenes, as if she is still addressing her book club, and yet it is almost entirely dropped later on. I’m not a fan of microphones on stage without a valid reason, and it felt rather like director Jessy Roberts just wanted to make full use of it, whether or not warranted. It is a great tool to signify when she is addressing her book club but at other times, just no.
Perhaps my lack of Twilight knowledge leaves me at a slight disadvantage. There is clearly an audience who will adore this play, as was evident tonight. But with some tightening up and dealing with those redundant moments it could become much more. Even so, the play already has a warm gentle charm, and it clearly strikes a chord with many spectators tonight, as it slowly addresses Izzy’s turmoil and sadness, struggling with her sexuality. And of course, as you’d expect with warm fuzzy plays, it ends with the promise that things will work themselves out.
Written by: Ashley Milne
DIrected by: Jessy Roberts
Sound design by: Hannah Bracegirdle
Lighting design by: Maria Colahan
Produced by: Lucia Rimini and Rebecca McGreevy for Teastain Theatre
Untitled Sparkly Vampire Play is at Omnibus Theatre until 21 May. Further information and bookings can be found here.
The play runs nightly at 7pm, with 24, 23, 22 (see our 5 star review here) playing at 8:30pm. You can book for both shows for just £20 using the discount code MayDouble. See website for full details.