Tag Archives: The Vaults

10

10
★★★★

VAULT Festival

10

10

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

10

Part of VAULT Festival 2019

 

 

 

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The Wrong Ffion Jones

The Wrong Ffion Jones
★★★★★

VAULT Festival

he Wrong Ffion Jones

The Wrong Ffion Jones

The Vaults

Reviewed – 20th February 2019

★★★★★

 

“she conjures up three-dimensional scenarios with a winning blend of physical agility and comic flair”

 

What does it mean to be Welsh? And what does it mean to be Welsh when everything you know and love about Wales is under threat? These are the questions asked by Ffion Jones, playing herself in a hilarious one-woman show at the VAULT Festival.

In a dystopian near-future, Wales has become ‘Walesland’ – a stifling theme park of itself cynically controlled by tycoons Bevan, Bevan, Bevan and Co. (The choice of name is presumably a cheeky nod to Rhys Bevan, the show’s director). Jones works as a tour guide and finds herself faced with a horrible moral dilemma when the Bevans offer her an opportunity that puts her trade – and that of her colleagues – at risk. To complicate matters further, she is becoming the face of a rebellion against their corporate values. Will she abandon her principles? Or will she put Wales before her own interests and lead the revolution?

In telling the story, Ffion brilliantly embodies its various characters, flitting between them with remarkable wit and invention. It’s quite some feat to hold up both ends of a conversation, using different voices and poised in different positions to bring alive diverse personalities, but she conjures up three-dimensional scenarios with a winning blend of physical agility and comic flair.

The humour is surreal and sophisticated. While there are inevitably jokes about Tom Jones, Richard Burton and sheep, they are never obvious. With a lightness of touch that prevents it ever becoming worthy or self-important, the show goes way further than mere wisecracks to make profound observations about capitalism and national pride. The clever use of projected home-video footage of Ffion as a young child adds emotional depth and introduces some visual variety. There’s real subtlety at work here, making it a refreshing and stimulating fifty-five minutes.

Ffion oozes charm, from the moment she steps on the stage waving a leek to seeming completely taken aback at the well-deserved standing ovation at the end. The quick-wittedness of her delivery – possibly honed through stand-up or improv comedy – is astonishing. In fact, if there’s a criticism it’s that it’s occasionally a little too fast. There’s so much going on, so rapidly, that you can’t always catch every visual or verbal gag. This makes it tricky to keep up with certain moments in the narrative. When she slows things down a little, such as for her amusing and oddly touching cover version of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler, you can really savour the dazzling range of her gifts.

The staging is minimal, with just three chairs, a microphone stand and a screen. But nothing else is needed: Ffion Jones creates an entire world.

 

Reviewed by Stephen Fall

Photography by  Pete Le May

 

Vault Festival 2019

The Wrong Ffion Jones

Part of VAULT Festival 2019

 

 

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com