Lock & Key
Reviewed – 15th March
“Contemporary and relevant, this is a modern day musical that I’m sure many can identify with”
It is past 10 o’clock at night, in a cramped office that used to be a stationery cupboard, and on her birthday of all days, Jess (Evelyn Hoskins) is staying late under the instructions of her nightmare boss, Samantha (Tiffany Graves). All Jess wants is to do something creative, something that matters. “Turns out so does everyone,” she has realised. However when her boss leaves her a set of keys to finish off some proofs, there is one key Samantha tells her not to touch. When Jess chooses to ignore this, she discovers something far more gruesome than she could ever have anticipated.
This is a relatable and sympathetic narrative that takes a sinister turn, and it is a clear and damning comment on the sacrifices that we are expected to make in order to succeed in these cut-throat industries. Contemporary and relevant, this is a modern day musical that I’m sure many can identify with, whatever step of the ladder they are on.
Alice Simonato has designed the small space adeptly, and the set, costumes and lighting are well linked by the ominously recurring red of the filing cabinet. Hoskins and Graves are equally strong and compliment each other wonderfully, vocally and in terms of their performances. Both are consistently believable and Hoskins in particular has a fantastically natural tone to her voice which works brilliantly with the at times Sondheim-esque score. Bella Barlow (composer) transitions easily from sing/speak into more traditional song structures and A. C. Smith’s lyrics are well served within this framework. The music and the musicians themselves are impressive, though could have benefitted from being in a larger space, as the percussion in particular felt overly heavy and unnecessarily dominating at times.
The characters suffer from a lack of development and nuance. Whilst Jess’ story is a relatable one, it remains predominantly one note, so it became hard to maintain a connection with her. For this reason, and also because the ending feels overly sudden, the emotional impact of Jess’ final choice is barely felt by the audience. Though we see a momentary softness in Samantha’s character when we realise she is the carer for her ailing mother, the change between these two sides of her is so dramatic that it seems inconsistent and unbelievable, and therefore, again, had little emotional effect. A more subtle and complex approach to writing this other side of her characterisation could easily have remedied this, as I think the problem lies in the writing rather than its execution. The hallucinated ‘Giggles the Bear’ character feels confused and out of place, and unfortunately I think the piece needs to be in a larger space and to be longer and further developed in terms narrative complexity in order for it to realise its full potential.
‘Lock and Key’ presents a relevant and potentially excitingly sinister narrative, with strong performances and a fantastic score. However the piece in its current form is in serious need of development, from both a narrative and character perspective.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Nick Brittain
Lock & Key
Vaults Theatre until 18th March