Pit – The Vaults
Reviewed – 28th January 2020
“Capasso’s crafting of the character is rich yet subtle, allowing Ali to be believably disturbed but not so much so that we can’t trust what she tells us”
Sophia Capasso’s one-woman show VOiD is a dark, thought-provoking work that at its finest moments is completely riveting.
We start by following the neurotic, quivering Ali, who has just thrown her phone against the wall in an act of protest following a suffocating barrage of notifications. Newly liberated from the disingenuous digital world, she turns to us and begins to unravel the complex story of where she is and how she got there, revealing that she has been charged with stabbing a man outside Shepherd’s Bush tube station. We are given some insight into each part of the story: the trial, the therapist’s office, the first day of prison and the fateful night of her alleged murder, but the details we really want to uncover are not always given to us – a clever storytelling hook from Capasso’s writing. Everything is told entirely from Ali’s perspective and in a way that suggests that her mental state is fragile and therefore erratically shifting throughout the play as she addresses us.
This, coupled with the bare set, stark, abstract lighting and use of mime makes us wonder – where actually is Ali, what actually happened and what can we actually believe?
It’s certainly a testing predicament for the audience and made even more so by the heavy implication from Ali that she was raped, and that the murder is linked to this – an act of self-defence, perhaps? The victim-blaming nature of the trial is certainly a story that needs to be told thanks to the worrying reflection on how the justice system treats victims of assault and abuse, yet Capasso keeps the details deliberately vague and open-ended, giving her audience the task of trying to uncover the truth themselves. What is especially tricky is attempting to figure out whether Ali’s neuroses stem from the trauma following the described events of the story, or are the results of her simply losing her grip on reality – a dilemma which would not work if Capasso’s own performance were weaker.
As it is, Capasso’s crafting of the character is rich yet subtle, allowing Ali to be believably disturbed but not so much so that we can’t trust what she tells us – she is conversational and even charming at times with occasional moments of black humour timed well. The balance she convincingly strikes has such a small margin of error, and bar a few ripples of random nervous laughter that seem gratuitously thrown in, Capasso and director Bruce Webb are to be congratulated for achieving this.
My only slight gripe with VOiD is that I left wanting a bit more from it – often we are told as audience members that this is a good thing, however I feel as though 45 minutes for this play was maybe not enough time for it to properly develop. We only visit each ‘scene’ of Ali’s story once and the order of events is not presented chronologically, which could result in some audience members being tricked into thinking that piecing it all together at face value is all there is to the story. Not only this, but for me it was unclear who the murder victim actually was due to inconsistencies with the location; perhaps this was the intended effect but it seemed like a strange detail to omit, and one that I couldn’t quite accept. Perhaps establishing more of a link between the events described as well as where Ali actually is when she tells the story could help us feel less lost as we’re watching VOiD. Or perhaps the fact that we’re losing our grip on the reality of Ali’s world as much as she herself is puts us exactly where the play wants us, and thus it triumphs.
Reviewed by Sebastian Porter