Crescent – The Vaults
Reviewed – 21st February 2020
“A more nuanced approach to this narrative would’ve made this script by Sarah Henley, far more successful”
Elyot (Timothy O’Hara) is living a life of strict routine, a life that avoids external forces. He rotates wordless records that he plays on his gramophone, his alarm is going off constantly, moving him on to the next thing, keeping him in motion (sound design by Ally Poole). He is counting down his life with a week by week tally. He has two plants that he spritzes regularly, and he is building a boat. He’s here and ready to improve. Until Laquaya (Nina Barker-Francis) climbs through his window, dancing into the stage space, and kicking over his plant. She’s 14, she’s a feminist and until recently, a young carer – and she’s here to meet her father. Over the course of the play the two very different characters find commonality, sharing a loneliness that the other might be the cure for.
The themes of ‘Essence’ are well worth exploring – loneliness, grief, difference, separated family members – but the writing is too heavy handed. Elyot’s transformation feels like flipping a switch it happens so fast, and as a result doesn’t feel believable. And his process of acceptance is too literally presented to the audience. A more nuanced approach to this narrative would’ve made this script by Sarah Henley, far more successful. Whilst the final scene is lovely, the best in the play, it feels like an obvious destination for the narrative.
Nina Barker-Francis is a brilliant presence on stage, full of energy and warmth and honesty. Her entrance lifts the piece and it is her we are rooting for through out. Timothy O’Hara is also strong, but he has a harder job with such an insular character that doesn’t bring much energy to the stage. He is particularly lovely in the final scene as we see the character begin to come out of himself and let go. Henley creates two very different characters and in doing so puts an unusual and interesting dynamic onstage.
The stage, set up as Elyot’s home, features all the components for his routine. As he begins to accept Laquaya in his life, these components evolve as he does. The themes and the characters are the strength of this show, delivered by our two actors. But the narrative itself lacks the nuance that this story requires.
Reviewed by Albert Owl