“a story which is both funny and moving, with fantastic timing and energy”
In Medway, Ollie and Ashley are about to celebrate their three month relationship. They are both sixteen. Ollie is certain that tonight is the night. He’s cooked her dinner, sent her flowers at school, which maybe he shouldn’t have done but anyway, he’s sure he’s done everything right. Only he’s paranoid that because of his leg, she won’t like him. Ashley isn’t certain she can go through with this. She’s the resident sexual health expert at school, four leaflets on every subject, always four, it’s got to be four. And what if they have sex and then – and then …
Ashley struggles with OCD. She thinks no one knows about it, and spends her life buried in her own coping mechanisms, doing her best to hide what she is dealing with. Written by Natalie Mitchell, this is a show about what normal is, or isn’t, about no one really being normal, whatever that means after all. It’s a show about young love, sex, and self-acceptance. And it talks about all this with humour.
Francesca Henry and Jake Richards as Ashley and Ollie respectively, are fantastic individually and lovely together, well directed by Grace Gummer. The relationship between them, with all its complexities, is believable throughout. They deliver a story which is both funny and moving, with fantastic timing and energy, underscored by a youth and vulnerability that the play is made by.
The two tell the story out to the audience, never quite together onstage even though they are onstage together, until the final scene, where they actually speak to each other directly.
Lizzy Leech’s set is split into four strips. A strip of that grey school corridor flooring they always use, especially in science corridors. Another strip of patterned wallpaper, grey bordering on silver. The third is dark grey, full colour, the last one grey tiles. Across its walls and the floor at various points in the piece, Kristallnacht is projected, letter by letter, spelt out as a coping mechanism.
The ending isn’t as strong or as believable as the rest of the play. Something about it feels too easy, too conclusive. But the journey we are taken on leading up to this point is an intelligent and engaging one, honest and lively as it talks about such an important issue.
“a story of the heart, using the infinity of time and space to juxtapose the small, individual worries we have down here on Earth”
The final day of the final week of the vast VAULT Festival has finally come. It has been an amazing, jam-packed couple of months of entertainment. From what has seemed like a manic, whirlwind explosion of art, it was a pleasant and satisfying end to the festival to see Katie Granger’s Ares, a play that’s quietly understated and charming, spreading faith and hope about the future, whilst giving an honest reflection on humanity.
This is a one-woman show following Alice (Andrea Hall), a highly intelligent astrophysicist, working at NASA, who has ferociously worked her way up from her humble beginnings on a dirt-tracked farm in Florida, to becoming the first person to lead a team on a mission to Mars. This sought-after position includes picking crew members, and Alice knows that her husband Dan is the best spaceman out there for the job. She knows how risky this mission will be and chances of him never returning are high, but is she able to put aside her personal fears and unease for the sake of the job?
Split into six parts, this hour-long adventure through the entirety of Alice’s life is touching and empathetic. What is most apparent is Alice’s drive to overcome any barriers that stand in her way, whether it be never knowing her mother, to being an African-American farm girl proving herself at Harvard, to surviving as a woman in a male-centric industry. Her story is certainly admirable to say the least. But it is the humanistic cracks that show, letting love in and the constriction of work that really make this a personable and relatable tale. What could easily have been a science lecture, turns into a story of the heart, using the infinity of time and space to juxtapose the small, individual worries we have down here on Earth.
Andrea Hall gives a truthful and humbling performance that is full of honesty. Her right-leg being in a cast meant she was sat down or briefly stood on crutches for the entirety, but this did not diminish the production. What was most important was the storytelling, and she conveyed Katie Granger’s powerful words of narrative with sincere precision. The images that Granger’s text conjure up, are powerful enough on their own. Both cast and crew managed to prove how creating something that is delicate and unobtrusive can be more engaging and have a mightier pull on the heartstrings than anything relying on flashy spectacle. A chair and a captivating story is all you need.