Crypt – The Vaults
Reviewed – 19th February 2020
“It’s a heavy monologue, but Wass regularly drops dark, deadpan jokes that work all the better for their unexpected nature”
The Thelmas are back with their second show at VAULT Festival this year. While Santi and Naz took us to India in the 1940s, Notch takes a scathing look at present-day Dublin. An unnamed European immigrant from an unnamed Slavic country finds the West, Ireland in particular, isn’t the land of opportunity she thought it would be.
Drawing from personal experience, Croatian writer/performer Danaja Wass uses spoken word and visual media to tell her story. In Dublin, Wass’ character lives in hostels and works a minimum wage job. She dreams of climbing up the ladder, but the current anti-European sentiment is a heavy weight on her shoulders. Ireland’s disdain for foreigners affects her mental health to the point that she loses her job. With no money, and no friends or family in the country, she faces homelessness.
In the wake of Brexit, Wass aims a well-timed shot to the heart of Britain and Ireland’s xenophobia. Directed by Madelaine Moore, Notch is a fearless confrontation of a broken system. Wass gives a committed performance, sliding between a Croatian and Dublin accent. Behind her is a TV, which sometimes displays clips of her love interest (Evelyn Lockley). Other times, closeups of Wass pulling at her face reiterates her corporeal existence while her character is made to feel invisible.
It’s a heavy monologue, but Wass regularly drops dark, deadpan jokes that work all the better for their unexpected nature. However, the aggressively fragmented composition of the show is a risky choice that doesn’t pay off. Split into jagged, haphazard sections of storytelling and spoken word, the narration is very difficult to follow. Although a sense of disorder may have been intentional, the chaotic structure too often leaves the audience out of the loop. Sudden jumps in tone, time, and place make piecing it all together a challenge. Jerky transitions and abrupt changes in lighting (Martha Godfrey) give a rocky overall impression.
Wass has a strong voice, and hers is undoubtedly a story we should be listening to right now. Notch is a bold piece with a singular perspective – it’s a shame so much feels lost in the jumble.
Reviewed by Addison Waite