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VAULT Festival



The Vaults

Reviewed – 13th March 2019



“an ambitious project … nicely done, with simple choreography and unified breath”


10 is an ambitious project for an hour long play; to distill the lives of ten women from history. Luckily, Lizzie Milton’s script lives up to the challenge well. When the audience enter the five women, who will take on two roles each, are standing around the space, statuesque in long dark blue dresses. The beginning and the transitions are nicely done, with simple choreography and unified breath. Director Nastazja Somers has created a strong framework on which to base the strands of the women’s stories and the music, sound and lighting, by Nicola Chang and Rajiv Pattani, support and complement the action beautifully. The casting is largely race and age blind, and it works really well.

Pamela Jikiemi took on the contrasting roles of Aethelflaed and Mary Prince. As Aethelflaed, the earliest recorded female ruler in Britain, she was impressive; portraying pride in achievement, and the shock of not being remembered. As Mary Prince, a woman who escaped slavery and terrible ill treatment to become only the second black woman to have her autobiography published, she was magnificent. Mary’s strength and anger, her suffering, and her pride shone through, and her sorrow when she thought of her husband was genuinely moving.

Rebecca Crankshaw was Brenda Proctor and Ada Lovelace. Proctor played a central, but largely undocumented, role in the miner’s strike, leading twenty-three thousand women on a march from Staffordshire to London. This piece was the least successful, not really conveying Proctor’s strength. There was so much concentration on her warm offerings of tea and cake that her activism rather got lost. Crankshaw gave a strong performance as Ada Lovelace, although I found her declarations, such as ‘I’m bloody brilliant, aren’t I!” rather jarring. There was no sense of her as a woman of her time.

Lydia Bakelmun played Princess Caraboo and Noor Inayat Khan, bringing warmth and charm to both roles. Princess Caraboo was a young woman from Devon who managed to convince people both in the UK and the USA that she was a princess from a faraway land. When her deception was discovered she settled in Bristol and sold leeches to the Infirmary. Bakelmun’s Caraboo was flirtatious and appealing, sure of her beauty and delightful. In the very different role of Noor Inayat Khan she gave us a portrayal of a brave and very human heroine. Khan was of Indian and American descent, and was in the Special Forces during WW11. She gave the audience a dilemma. Would you kill a nazi to save the lives of innocent people? Could you do it? Khan’s courage, arrest and execution, her final cry of ‘liberte’ were beautifully portrayed.

Beth Eyre’s first role was the Welsh artist Gwen John. John was recognised for her portraits of women, although she was overshadowed by her more famous brother, Augustus. Eyre’s Gwen was full of self doubt, imbued with a sense of faith, yet anxious about an upcoming exhibition. Her second role was that of Joan Clarke, who worked at Bletchley Park decoding the Enigma machine. Remembered now for her brief engagement to Alan Turing, Clarke was a gifted mathematician who made an important contribution the the war effort. Eyre showed her as a careful, deep thinking woman, concerned to make a word where everyone would be equally valued and welcome. Don’t try to knock the wall down, create a way through – a door maybe, she said.

Naomi Knox gave us Mary Seacole and Constance Markievicz, two very different women, both brought beautifully to life. Seacole was British-Jamaican woman who went to nurse in the Crimea, going there at her own expense. Knox showed her as a strong, woman, fulfilled by her work and her care for the patients. Then as a person lost, having to return home after doing so much. The warm strength of Mary Seacole was sharply contrasted by the harder strength of Constance Markievicz, a political revolutionary who fought for Ireland’s freedom from Britain. Knox was fierce, deadly determined, ready to shoot, but showing, too, Markievicz’s isolation in prison and her belief in a better world.

The play’s ten women, some better known than others, each made their own unique contributions. As an audience, enjoying the performances, we also learned about these extraordinary people and their lives, without ever feeling that we were being taught.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Ali Wright


Vault Festival 2019


Part of VAULT Festival 2019




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Crocodile- 4*


Network Theatre

4 February 2017


“Joe Eyre was mesmerising to watch, keeping the audience hanging on every word”


Written and performed by Joe Eyre (co starring Rhiannon Sommers), Crocodile is running as part of this year’s VAULT Festival at the Network Theatre. The play explores how the lives of Alan and Jane have changed considerably, now that they have a child, who just happens to be a crocodile.

On first reading the press release, I wondered if this was a play for children given its somewhat bizarre description; yet this turned out to be a very dark comedy, with some snappy (first and last crocodile related line) twists along the way. Certainly not one for the kids.
In terms of the set, there is a chair and little else, give or take a couple of props along the way. The play is split into two monologues, offering first the perspective of Alan and then for the latter (and shorter) part, a view point from Jane.
The show started slightly uncomfortably as Alan speaks toward the audience to address someone (possibly Jane, a neighbour or someone else … I was unsure …), about whether they have called the police, or the zoo. A lady in the front row was answering the questions – not sure whether this was the aim, but it was a little bit like a fingernails on a blackboard moment. This was the start of the play, so at that point I’d predicted this was an omen of worse to come.
Thankfully, this seemed to be just a hiatus in what otherwise became a more and more intriguing and captivating performance. Joe Eyre was mesmerising to watch, keeping the audience hanging on every word as the plot twisted and turned from being the story of happy new parents into something much more sinister and gruesome.
This is described as a dark comedy, and there are some clever lines (aided by Eyre’s sharp delivery), that keep you smiling. Yet it’s mostly not a laugh out loud piece, and that’s not a criticism as it works chillingly well just the way it is.
Rhiannon Sommers does a great job in relating Jane’s story but it’s Joe Eyre who steals the limelight. Crocodile has a lot of potential. A few tweaks here and there and this has the makings of a memorable piece.



Produced by Joyous Gard and  directed by Matt Maltby, Crocodile is at VAULT Festival 2017 until 5 February.



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