Cage – The Vaults
Reviewed – 10th March 2020
“a hugely vulnerable and timely piece of theatre”
Two dates, a few months apart but on two different continents, are layered on top of each other. Actor and writer Kate Goodfellow plays herself in both, a bravely intimate portrayal of two seemingly unrelated days, one in Australia and one in the UK. The link between them is the temperature; it is 39 degrees and too hot.
By flipping deftly between these timeframes, Goodfellow explores the moment of the Australian bushfires and the fall out from them, experienced far away, displaced in a flat she hates. Through Joseph Ed Thomas’ dramatic lighting design, the audience are flipped from one moment to the other. At the same time, Goodfellow rapidly changes the frame through which she engages with natural disaster. She veers from the highly personal and individual to the political manifesto, holding forth on domestic politicians and global blindness. This switching is supported by Ruth Newbery-Payton, who plays her visiting sister but also fills in as news readers, horrified bystanders and government officials.
At the focal point of the performance is the beautiful set piece built by Chris Gibbs. A stubbornly hot radiator is flanked by bags for life stuffed with Goodfellow’s belongings. Above these is a luminous and backlit window. The blinds are drawn but the frame glows consistently, providing a dramatic and also flexible backdrop as it simmers red with fire or grey with the piercing light of London. It’s perennially closed blinds makes the space claustrophobic enough to house Goodfellow’s portrayal of mental health crises but also hints at the greater context of these; she is not suffering on a purely personal basis and mental health doesn’t function in a vacuum. Huge decisions made miles away slip in through the gaps in the blinds.
Goodfellow has a lot to balance in this hour long set, and it does sometimes run away from her. There is considerable comedy in the interactions between her and her sister, but the jumps from there to external tragedy and personal disaster are often jarring and uncomfortable. What is aiming for a Fleabag-esque candidness can’t be earnt in the short time and is instead disorienting. This is compounded by writing which is at times clumsy and hammy. Moments of spoken word feel misplaced amongst casual language and the dialogue slips between realistic and stylised too fast and frequent to track.
Despite its tonal issues, Goodfellow has created a hugely vulnerable and timely piece of theatre. The closeness to her own life is keenly felt and means that the audience are willing to follow her through it, even if the road is a little uneven.
Reviewed by Cleo Henry