“a spectacular performance taking the audience on a journey of emotions”
VAULT Festival 2020 is a storm of ideas and madness, parties, costume and cabaret. What’s so great about being in the audience of ‘If This Is Normal’, directed by Helena Jackson, is the experience of watching something truly honest and sharing something deeply personal with the characters.
Two siblings, Madani (Isambard Rawbone) and Maryam (Zarma McDermott) meet Alex (Aoife Smyth) on their first day at a new school, all recently having moved to the area. Instantly, they become an inseparable three, and bounce off each other with boundless energy, their neon costume producing a loud synaesthetic experience. This coming of age story is about feeling different at school, post-exam freedoms, strong teenage friendships and the different experiences and expectations surrounding sex and consent whilst growing up.
I couldn’t think of a better place than beneath the humbling arches near Waterloo to watch such a piece where we are confided in, questioned and left to reflect. The script is beautifully written (Lucy Danser), laced with moments of poetry and left without a resolution. The characters work together seamlessly and the lines reflect their uncontained love for each other at a stage in life when, even though everything is shared, everything remains utterly mysterious.
Clothes are a strong theme throughout. All the costume changes take place onstage and as garments are strewn about the set (Lorraine Terry) and new ones are acquired, the audience sees an acceleration of the period the three characters spend growing up. These are the awkward years of adolescence where nothing feels concrete and the eclectic outfits allow for some nostalgia. Pigtails loosen and bodycon dresses tighten: a concoction of conformity and liberation reminding us that being a teenager is nothing but confusing.
Loud conversation is accompanied by competingly loud sounds and music (Nicola Chang), which is unfortunately a little overwhelming at times. However, it captures the mood of different scenes remarkably well and is incredibly evocative. The different pieces of music also create an underlying structure to the piece. The characters make their own sounds: gasps, screams and thuds are the background to their movements as they slot into the spaces with perfect synchronisation.
All three characters deliver very intelligent and believable parts, three teenagers growing up with their own insecurities and quirks. Isambard Rawbone connects completely with his character and delivers a spectacular performance taking the audience on a journey of emotions.
If you have an hour to spare, this performance is truly worth seeing and will transport you back as well as offering a space for reflection on growing up and early relationships.
With neon lights now flashing at every turn and Christmas markets in full swing, Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre brings us a touch of something different in the festive season. The Little Prince is a heart-warming tale: the eponymous lead leaves his beloved home, asteroid B612, to embark on a journey across space in the name of friendship. On his travels, he meets the lone occupants of various planets who are mostly ill-equipped for anything near friendship, apart from an unlikely fox.
This is a classic tale by French writer, Saint-Exupéry and explores themes of human imagination and friendship. This adaptation (directed by Marie McCarthy) does justice to a relatively complex fable and the script (Sally Pomme Clayton) hovers thoughtfully over different stops across the universe, managing to simplify the plot without losing its charm.
The set (Sophia Pardon and Hazel Low) surpasses all expectations for a small theatre production: earthy rocks and boulders; a broken, up-turned plane downstage left; a puppet plant baobab; a swathe of white lights shimmering above us as the night sky. The detail is astounding, the efforts commendable.
The lighting (Rachel Sampley) is equally creative. A spotlight displays etchings on rocks and there are bright alien greens and reds. A small chasm at the back of the stage hosts scenic projections which transport us through different planets. A lovely moment is when the Prince climbs aboard his trusty bird and we fly across the universe, complete with uplifting sounds (Jon McLeod) and brighter lighting.
Costume is on par, if not more pleasing. What a joy to see the garlanded rose costumes; the geographer even has a map decorating his tie. We must applaud the sheer effort that have gone towards the aesthetics.
The cast is a trio of star performers. Royce Cronin plays Rose and a range of the other planetary occupants. He is entertaining and lends a panto energy to the piece with his large gestures and hearty song, albeit not the most tuneful. The lead, Comfort Fabian, is a charming and perky Prince, brimming with youthful fun and innocence. The star performance was delivered by Vera Chok. Her acting is enchanting as she transforms from the concerned and narrow-minded pilot at the start into a multitude of stunning characters including the fox who is the most engaging character on stage. She involves children in the audience in dance and jokes and brings the room to life.
I cannot praise enough the efforts that went into the intricate set and prop design. This marries perfectly with a story which tells of the limitless powers to the imagination. This is a journey both about the self and the way we treat loved ones and leaves you full of Christmas cheer. While the main themes clearly shine through, clever more nuanced meanings rustle under the surface of the earthy stage, making it a delight for both children and adults alike.