Tag Archives: Vaults Theatre

Lock & Key – 3 Stars


Lock & Key

The Vaults

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



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Big Bad – 5 Stars


Big Bad

The Vaults

Reviewed – 14th March 2018


“the beast is visible hanging around her more persuasively than any prosthetics could”


There is a sign on the door of The Pit, a subterranean little dungeon in the Vaults, warning of, among other things, strobe effects and a lycanthrope. And there she is as we take our seats, lying in the corner of the stage, thankfully chained, and asleep. And in the human form of Arabella Gibbins.

In this one-woman show, the werewolf is interrogated over a period of weeks by her silent and unseen captor – a neat device to justify the monologue of her story. After an icy, intense opening, the werewolf’s story of how she came to be incarcerated becomes highly engaging, often funny, and incredibly relatable. Gibbins’ portrayal is wonderful, and the beast is visible hanging around her more persuasively than any prosthetics could – and yet somehow never loses that human touch.

Conceptually, the Big Bad is terrific, using the stalking horse of a werewolf story to provide a novel scope for themes of entrapment, power, and the experience of being a (were)woman. This is supported by excellent writing, peppered with eerily familiar references and double-meanings, to drive home a story that is both gripping and meaningful. The text is carefully crafted to feel whole, and complete. Nothing is forgotten – nothing is said without reason.

Assistant producer Esmee West-Agboola is not wrong when she says that The Pit at the Vaults is “bloody perfect for the world premiere of Big Bad” – with the addition of a bucket, a blanket, and a chain, the prison is brought to life. Special credit goes to the chain, which is an able co-star for Gibbins, as she bangs and clatters it with her changing moods.

Big Bad is as visceral as it is stripped back and as believable as it is extraordinary. This is top quality fringe theatre and must not be missed.


Reviewed by Matthew Wild


Big Bad

Vaults Theatre until 18th March



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