Even in the rough and ready low budget VAULT Festival sets, How We Begin strips it back further with just a rug and four cushions in place. That is all the set needs to move us out of the damp, dingy Pit and into the love affair of Helen (Talia Pick) and Diana (Emma Lucia). What follows is a masterclass in reminding us that, at the end of the day, a breath-taking script and tender, joyful, skilful performances can take an audience anywhere.
Helen and Diana narrate their story to us. This use of narration allows the story to move forward through the years, showing us how they come together from their first meeting as freshers. Each progressive step of their friendship is introduced as ‘this is how we began’ bringing us along to the moment they realise they are in love and begin an affair – despite Diana already having a boyfriend.
Elisabeth Lewrenz’s script is smart, intimate and funny – trusting in the performers to both show and tell. There is an easy and electric chemistry between the two which radiates out into the audience. As they narrate, smooth and natural addresses to the audience draw us in even more. It’s impossible not to be caught up as one of them turns to look directly at you as they tell a little more of their growing love with a palpable joy.
Using Helen and Diana’s affair, How We Begin looks at love and points a spotlight at bisexuality as an area of under looked queerness. As Helen comes out to her family, in a moving and hilariously warm depiction, her mother finds books about historic lesbians, whilst noting there are so few books about bisexuals.
Remarkable directing from Elizabeth Benbow brings movement and positioning of the two cast to the fore. Again, this is low-key, stripped back. The distance between the actors matters immensely so that as they move closer and touch it carries an impact. It sounds simple but it is clear that a huge amount of thought has gone into every moment. Touch is very important; the touching in bed and the surreptitious touching – stolen moments in their affair – when out with friends and this shines through in direction and performance.
Writer, director and cast have come together at the top of their games to present an unmissable evening. How We Begin is gorgeous, intimate and touching, whilst also managing to be full of humour. The show itself began its journey at King’s Head Theatre in 2019 before returning for this year’s VAULT Festival. We would be lucky to see it make another return, to see another beginning.