Hear me Howl
Reviewed – 31st January 2019
“Lydia Rynne’s script is witty and well-paced, and it’s worth a watch”
Regardless of what you’ve come to see, The Vaults, with its old brick tunnel walls and stark furnishings, is always an exciting venue. Upon entering, we’re given a pair of earplugs, the reason for which becomes apparent when we see the stage covered with various drum kits. And, right on time, we are alerted to the play’s beginning with a chaotic drum crash.
Jess is nearly thirty, living in a basement flat; she has a boyfriend with whom she has sex once a month and a job that at best she finds boring, and at worst deeply despises. On discovering she is pregnant she embarks on an early life-crisis, or as the theatre’s synopsis calls it, a late coming-of-age journey, as she tries to decide if she actually wants this baby or if she is simply giving in to society’s futurist regenerative pressures.
The play consists of an hour-long monologue, and Alice Pitt-Carter does well to keep the audience engaged, making good use of the space, and allowing for peaks and troughs of energy in her delivery. The Vault Theatre’s Cavern sits directly under a train line and throughout the play the trains beat overhead to great effect, a sporadic but weighty heart-beat rhythm lending a seemingly purposeful baseline to the soundtrack. Owing to the venue’s unusual combination of echoing acoustics and an intimate space, Kay Michael might have directed Pitt-Carter to create a more confessional performance. But she acts in much the same way you might in a larger, more conventional auditorium. She is not over-dramatic, but when the audience is so close to the performer it seems unnecessary to enunciate and facially contort with such clarity.
Caley Powell’s production is simple but effective: Sally Somerville-Woodiwis’ stripped-back set design consists of a drum kit, more scattered drums, and walls covered with teenage bedroom-style poster collages. The sound design is equally bare-bones – Pitt-Carter uses the drums and a solitary microphone to punctuate certain lines, lend an element of tension or, as you would imagine with a self-professed amateur on a drum-kit, to create a feeling of stress and havoc. Martha Godfrey’s lighting generally either floods the stage and part of the audience, or spotlights in moments of high tension. All this is to great effect – it’s a small venue and the audience is on level with the staging so an overly sophisticated production would be too distracting.
A one-woman play about the pressures of society in which the protagonist decides, with zero musical experience, to be a drummer in a punk band, is a perfect recipe for disaster, and to its credit, it is not disastrous. It is, however, by no means ground-breaking either. The current conversation regarding abortion isn’t quite so fraught and the story somehow doesn’t seem realistic in the way it might have ten years ago. Nonetheless, Lydia Rynne’s script is witty and well-paced, and it’s worth a watch.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Will Lepper
Hear me Howl
Part of VAULT Festival 2019
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