How many times have you walked past a vending machine and chosen not to buy a drink? Are you aware of how it crushes their souls as they wait in expectation of being chosen — only to be passed over? And have you ever imagined what their lives are like trapped inside a glass cage? Well then, you’ve come to the right place.
Quench is a unique absurdist comedy, following the lives of four fizzy drinks who are trapped inside a vending machine at a leisure centre. Sparkling (Stephanie Noblet) is the clear leader of the gang. She is joined by bubbly and friendly Appletania (Hayley Worboys) and sporty but hilariously bored Electrolyte (Millie Thorn, who is also the play’s writer). They have bonded over their time spent inside the vending machine. A new drink, Fizzy Orange (Grant Leat), arrives with much pomp and ceremony, advertising his recyclable can and upsetting the equilibrium.
But time is running out. They are nearing their expiration dates, as Sparkling mourns the 694 grabs she’s witnessed. Additionally, the leisure centre is closing, which spells out doom for the bottles as the window to fulfil their destiny narrows even further.
The bottles line up in expectation each time they spot a potential customer, only to deflate in disappointment as they carry on walking by. There was a hilarious moment when an audience member walked right past the stage with drinks purchased from the bar. The looks of absolute dejection on the bottles’ faces were priceless. Credit to the cast for their ability to improvise with a golden moment.
The costumes are simple and effective with single-toned, brightly coloured outfits representing each drink. The rows of the vending machine are represented by coloured tape on the stage, and the product codes are also recreated and magnified, so the inside of the vending machine takes up the entire stage. The actors remain in character as a bottle the entire time, it is entertaining to watch them rolling as a bottle would. The dialogue is overflowing with puns and absurdities. The audience seem to genuinely feel for the bottles and cheered them on when one was finally chosen.
What lets the play down is the great escape sequence, as they use props to show the audience a zoomed-out version of events. This is clunky, with the actors trying to puppeteer a bottle, making its escape through a jungle gym of platforms in the vending machine. This scene could have been left out, as it is the acting and facial expressions that make this play such fun to watch. Each of the characters portrays a distinct personality that shines through, with genuine fears and expectations that we have all experienced in our lives.
Quench is a fun and lighthearted comedy that will leave you smiling. So, the next time you walk past a vending machine, spare a thought for those lonely souls.
Written by: Millie Thorne
Directed by: Akaash Meeda
Produced by: Maria Klockare-Holland & Millie Thorne
Quench played as part of VAULT Festival 2023, and has now completed its current run.