Reviewed – 7th February 2019
“The compelling acting and fusion of dramatic ideas enrich both the moral dilemma and the theatrical experience”
Amidst the weird, wonderful and wacky that is the VAULT Festival is a unique production from ‘Anonymous Is A Woman Theatre Company’. Inspired by the Aziz Ansari controversy and with the question of consent very much in the air, ‘Greyscale’ makes the audience consider the grey area around sexual dominance, social conditioning and human nature.
Without conferring, Joel Samuels and Madeline Gould each wrote a monologue recounting two very different versions of the same date. We hear one account in the street, as the festival audiences brush past, and the other in a local bar surrounded by background chatter. In between, we become voyeurs to an essential part of what happened behind closed doors.
Director, Roann McCloskey, brings an ambiguity to two people’s behaviour and reactions, triggering the debate on why we make the decisions we do and how we can remember the same event differently from each other. The close proximity of the actors in this kind of performance heightens the intensity and they both succeed in portraying the characters with vital sensitivity. Tom Campion as James is charming and effusive, talking passionately as he draws us into his story and his impression of their meeting, which, he says, may have taken an inadvertent turn. Lucy, played by Edie Newman, movingly describes the same evening, struggling to understand her own mixed emotions and overwhelming self-doubt. In the central scene, we peer through peep holes to witness what happened that night, stirring up a sense of unease; we are spying on their privacy, but they are trapped in it.
The immersive, site-specific nature of the show holds us in a personal way, urging us to listen, watch and reflect. And the cast of two men and two women rotates, varying the gender combination of the couple and allowing the discussion to go beyond being just a feminist issue. With the medley of relationships and the choice of who we meet first being up to the audience, seeing one variation on the theme prompts curiosity to sample the others. If #MeToo has brought awareness through the scandals of the rich and famous, this succinct piece brings the matter home to our own lives. The compelling acting and fusion of dramatic ideas enrich both the moral dilemma and the theatrical experience.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Ali Wright
Part of VAULT Festival 2019
Juniper and Jules
Reviewed – 23rd January 2019
“Taylor and Schmidt have great chemistry. Both wholly own their roles, playing two very different women”
Juniper (Stella Taylor) has never been attracted to men. Jules (Gabriella Schmidt) had no idea she could be attracted to women. That changed when she met Juniper. This one-hour play follows the progression of Juniper and Jules, from early infatuation into the rougher waters of a long-term relationship. It explores the question of whether it’s possible to be committed without being exclusive, and asks how much one should be willing to sacrifice for a partner (if anything).
Juniper & Jules is a series of snapshots of a modern lesbian couple: their dating, their sex, their arguments. Writer Stephanie Martin has created two compelling characters whom she guides with impressive authenticity. There’s a genuineness to their frustrations and their vulnerability that resonates. Martin orchestrates the flow and ebb of their closeness and distance with real skill, shaping a narrative that’s unflinching and bold, but also light and touching. Humour is a thread woven throughout. The jokes are clever and consistently land well.
Taylor and Schmidt have great chemistry. Both wholly own their roles, playing two very different women. There is accomplished subtlety in Taylor’s facial expressions. Schmidt bounces between hot and cold with ease. They command the intimate room, giving the audience no opportunity to let their attention drift.
Juniper and Jules’ attempt to navigate the pitfalls of a non-exclusive relationship is engrossing. However, an ending that is meant to be revelatory feels circular instead. With a bit too much sermonising, the characters rehash the same ideas, and make the same decisions they made before, simply hoping this time will be different. It’s somewhat anticlimactic, as it seems a lot of the problems of the story have been left unaddressed. But overall it’s an honest, engaging, and insightful portrayal of a young couple trying to make their own rules rather than submitting to prescribed standards.
The Pit room at The Vaults is a tight space. Benches for the audience take up most of the area, leaving just an impossibly small, narrow strip of floor within which the entire performance is contained. It’s remarkable how well director Bethany Pitts has made use of almost nothing. Despite the nearly complete lack of set, we are easily immersed in the characters’ world. Also noteworthy is the approach to Juniper and Jules’ texting – a common obstacle in modern plays. Taylor and Schmidt speak the texts, including punctuation, at a distance from each other. It’s effective and keeps the characters engaged (rather staring at phones while we see messages displayed on a screen).
There’s an exciting twenty-five percent of work from LGBTQ+ artists at VAULT Festival this year. If you’re interested in authentic queer narratives told truthfully, with frankness and humour, then Juniper & Jules should be on your list.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Photography courtesy Clamour Theatre
Juniper and Jules
Part of VAULT Festival 2019