Reviewed – 17th March 2019
“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.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Part of VAULT Festival 2019
The Noble Nine
Reviewed – 30th January 2019
“has a slow start but gets stronger throughout to pack an unexpected and gripping finish”
Estelle West, illustrious author of The Noble Nine novel series, is on her death bed. West’s eight estranged grandchildren (a loyal hamster completes the nine) reunite and reminisce over their childhood adventures when they were the inspiration for dear Noona’s tales. Idyllic memories of simpler days spent picnicking and watching the otters frolic expose bitterness and tension towards tomboy Bammie (Claudia Grant) who is now engaged to Hank and a functioning adult. With Estelle’s shock reveal that their inheritance is hidden as gold in the family mansion, the grandchildren visit the remote island where they spent their childhood for one last caper. But will it ever feel the same again? Dark secrets of the past are unearthed, unleashing a bloodthirsty brawl to haunting chants of ‘leave it to the nine’.
In the damp warren of tunnels below Waterloo station Toby Vaughan as a wide-eyed presenter comically totters into the cavern to set the scene. Vaughan succeeds in captivating the audience in all his roles, later appearing as perishing Estelle and as an overbearing estate agent. Whimsical Winnie (Ella Bruccoleri) and Oldest Arthur (Ryan Dooey) are memorable as the trailblazers of the group, bringing a psychotic twist to our Edith Blyton childhood fantasies. This is offset by Bookish Hen, the reluctant cousin, physicalised nicely by Willy Hudson. Jennifer Leong, Dipo Ola and Claudia Grant complete a strong cast.
Performing in a damp-smelling subterranean space is in some ways an atmospheric backdrop well-suited to this adventure. Theatre Tewl capitalise on the long stretch of space between the audience as the nine hunt around the manor for treasure. Lighting is used playfully, and the lack of set design seems fitting. Unfortunately, dialogue is often lost due to inevitable background noise and the feat of staging scenes to be visible to all. Nonetheless the abundance of witty jokes is well-received.
Polina Kalinina’s direction and Matt Parvin’s writing have strong potential but need fine tuning to ensure the completeness and consistency of this spoof. The piece has a slow start but gets stronger throughout to pack an unexpected and gripping finish. The overarching plot which sees relationships unravel and depicts a desperate need for the out of touch troupe to save the day is at points sensational. Particularly hilarious touches included Oldest Arthur’s recurring preoccupation with German spies and Romantic Gregory’s struggle to revive his poetic skills.
This is a promising debut play from Theatre Tewl with strong foundations for a thrilling and unmissable dark comedy.
Reviewed by Beth Partington
Photography courtesy Theatre Tewl
The Noble Nine
Part of VAULT Festival 2019