DramaLondonReviewVAULT Festival

Splintered— VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Louise Burns

Writer and Director: Emily Aboud

When looking for the Crypt, an audience must navigate away from the lively VAULT Underbar and outside, into an alley, where ushers direct you past litter bins to a separate venue. It’s a hidden space that might have been chosen on purpose by Lagahoo Productions to make a point. Splintered is an evening of true stories from queer women of colour living in the Caribbean, forced to suppress their sexuality from fear of punishment. Trinidad and Tobago may have had its first Pride in 2018, but it’s still difficult to live an openly queer life there.

Writer and director Emily Aboud choses carnival as form of release for silenced and oppressed women. “We will dismantle the structures, carnival style!” cry the MCs who take us through an evening of cabaret. There is a mixture of music, spoken word, comedy sketches, and verbatim. Some forms work better than others. Recorded verbatim testimonies from queer women living in Trinidad and Tobago, where women speak of difficulties with family or how men react, carry weight. In these moments the use of theatrical space is at times limited and there could have been better use of the talented performers. The evening sometimes feels disjointed. When sending up musical numbers, they are razor-sharp and witty, and although humour over anger is the chosen theme, where there is more comedy than substance, this show loses force.

Performers Alice Vilanculo, Chanté Faucher, and Charlotte Dowding carry this show, which was a hit at Edinburgh last year, with an urgent energy. It is in the stillness however that the evening really finds its force. Charlotte sings acapella on a dark stage under a single spotlight, Alice as Ruby quietly finds courage to come out to her mother. The show opens with silence. Chanté centre stage, stands, and looks every member of the audience directly in the eye. We are compelled to listen.

Runs until 16 February 2020

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