Reviewed – 31st July 2019
“a wide-reaching play that has much to say about the world, but more than can be accomplished within its short length”
Any writer looking for dystopian inspiration can easily cherry-pick examples from the present day, something which can be seen in Vice’s opening film reel of horrors – featuring clips ranging from Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq to the more recent Grenfell Tower fire. But choosing too many things to rail against is what lets down Vice, an ambitious play that attempts to marry the personal and the political, but which ends up feeling a little lacklustre.
Following its rather powerful cinematic opening, the show leads us into the lives of a band of characters in the year 2023, a “new world” filled with war and old-fashioned air raid sirens. Revolutionaries Patrycja (Clementina Allende Iriarte), Em (Beth Siddall), and Johnny (Dimitris Kafataris) are planning a kidnap. While on the other side of the spectrum, politician Wetherby (Liam Arnold) argues with his daughter Jayne (Georgia Hodgson) about the disappearance of her sister – an incident that tops his litany of rather clichéd scandals. The two storylines intersect against a backdrop of bombings and uncertainty as we uncover the motivations and regrets behind each group.
Written and directed by Matt Rolls, the show has its merits and the cast largely deliver good performances, most notably Siddall, but also Kafataris, whose character adds a small but welcome element of comic relief to otherwise serious scenes. However, a plot that starts out as intriguing cannot sustain itself and ultimately lets down the carefully curated wartime atmosphere of the first half. The ending seeks to neatly wrap up all threads, but in doing so, sadly renders many of the characters and themes introduced earlier on redundant.
The cast and creatives are all graduates and current students of East 15 Acting School and they work well together. There are some well executed group scenes, good costume and design, and some staging that – although it probably changes around more than necessary – sets the scene effectively. But Vice’s other creative elements are undermined by a script that could have been tighter. While the writing has moments of cleverness and there are some promising monologues, these feel badly wedged into the main plot. Many lines simply offer a stand-alone commentary on today’s society and have no need for the context of the play’s murky future. The play also relies too heavily on its headline concept of the “old world” and the “new world”, continuously shoving this down the audience’s throat, with overzealous references to these terms peppered throughout.
In the end, Vice is a wide-reaching play that has much to say about the world, but more than can be accomplished within its short length. The result is a work too bogged down with elevated concepts to deliver a satisfying story.
Reviewed by Vicky Richards
Photography by Matt Rolls
When it Happens
Etcetera Theatre until 4th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Water Rats
Reviewed – 30th July 2018
“a complex play that conjures up twists until the final moment”
Before a small theatre pub and music venue called The Water Rats came into being, there existed in its place a pub called The Pindar of Wakefield. In its time, it was visited by such luminaries as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Bob Dylan. Unfortunately none of them were available on Monday to discuss love, life, and relationships – luckily, playwright Olugbeminiyi Bammodu was around to do it instead.
Bammodu’s play, which he wrote and directed, dissects the relationship between Melissa and Daniel, a couple who met at university. Their idealistic student days are long gone; their affection for one another has taken its leave, too. Melissa, now a successful lawyer, resents having to financially support her artist boyfriend: the romantic notion of him ‘waiting for inspiration’ has long gone sour. Daniel perceives this as a lack of support, diminishing his confidence even further. The various misunderstandings between the two create tension that is only exacerbated by the arrival of Daniel’s brother Jacob, who is intent on reawakening the family drama that Daniel has tried to forget.
Anyone expecting a simple domestic drama should reject this notion instantly. Clingfilm is a complex play that conjures up twists until the final moment. This is to both its credit and its detriment. On one hand, it keeps the audience invested in its characters, all of whom are given depth and intriguing histories. Conversely, it makes for a play that is a little overlong and, in places, melodramatic. Attempts to maintain the high stakes sometimes miss the mark and the revelations sometimes come too suddenly to be believable. Ultimately, Melissa and Daniel’s relationship comes second to the various tangents that are set up and rarely resolved. The set goes some way to compensate for this. A photo of the couple stands downstage centre: physically, at least, their relationship is always at the forefront. But this isn’t quite enough to avoid it being weighed down by extraneous melodrama.
Fortunately, a strong cast is on hand to bring the script to life and sustain some of its more ridiculous moments. Anna Thornley and Matt Rolls give the play a strong foundation as Melissa and Daniel, capturing the varied nature of their relationship with great sensitivity. Olivia Caw and Elliot O’Donnell provide excellent support as Melissa’s best friend Rachel and Daniel’s brother Jacob. Both, especially Caw, give scenes balance and bring warmth and plausibility that is sometimes missing from the dialogue. All have a flair for comedy and draw out the humorous elements in a way that does not feel forced or unnatural. Thornley is particularly good at this: her correction of Daniel’s grammar is a running joke that brings some welcome laughter during tense moments.
‘I should have chose her!’ – ‘Chosen, Daniel.’
Clingfilm promises an intimate look at a relationship from the inside. But as it progresses the play becomes overwhelmed by other elements which, though effective, relegate the audience to mere spectators of the chaos rather than accomplices in the drama.
Reviewed by Harriet Corke
Photography by Michael Lynch
The Water Rats until 1st August
part of The Camden Fringe Festival 2018