Lock & Key – The Vaults Festival, Waterloo

Book & Lyrics: A.C. Smith

Music: Bella Barlow

Director: Adam Lenson

Reviewer: Sophia Moss

How much would you sacrifice for success? Would you put up with a nightmare boss who constantly puts you down? Would you stay in the office until 10pm and miss your own birthday party?  How about cutting off your fingers or shredding your hand to show how much you want the job? This is the situation young publishing intern Jess (Evelyn Hoskins) finds herself in when she realises her boss is hiding a gruesome secret. Lock & Key is a clever idea, but the script doesn’t quite do it justice.

Lock & Key tells a story that millennials trying to break into the creative industries will find painfully familiar. While most role don’t require body mutilation, the idea behind it – the modern workplace which exploits young workers and encourages unhealthy hours – rings horribly true for anyone who has worked crazy hours, done ridiculous tasks and worked for free in the hopes of getting ahead in the creative (or indeed any) industry. 

The idea of Lock & Key is effective, but the execution doesn’t always work. This hour long performance is mostly made up of musical numbers and, while some of the songs such as The things she leaves unsaid which sends up the passive aggressive threats that are all too familiar in office life, are very funny and horribly relatable, other songs including The Dream where Jess sings about her aspirations, don’t seem particularly original. Some of the lyrics feel a little half-hearted, almost as if the writers are more concerned with rhyming words rather than the words themselves.

While the orchestra plays beautifully in a dark-cabaret style and some songs – like ‘the little red key’ – combine the music and lyrics well, sometimes the singers and the orchestra seem out of sync, like they are playing different songs.  Both actors have good singing voices, but Lock & Key is performed in a small space where the stage is very close to the audience, meaning the microphones are a little redundant and makes the belting part of the songs somewhat unpleasant. The set is minimal, with the acting space – occupied by a crowded desk, computer and office-style décor – separated from the orchestra by stacked filing cabinets. The lighting arrangement of orange and red lights is subtle, but it adds to the dark undertones of this story.

One of the funniest sequences in Lock & Key is where Giggles the Bear – the protagonist of a disturbing children’s book who, despite his best intentions, ends up killing ducks and giving his friends anaphylaxis shock – comes to life in puppet form and talks to Jess in a sweetly demonic voice. It’s a surreal sequence which both reveals that Jess’s boss is testing her with this ridiculous story and highlights how Jess is quite literally losing her mind.

Lock & Key has a good premise which will resonate with the young, the ambitious and the exploited young workforce in today’s Britain, but the script and lyrics are not quite sharp or funny enough to do it justice.

Runs until 18 March 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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