DramaReviewSouth West

The Best Thing – The Lighthouse, Poole

Director: Rachael Savage
Reviewer: Sophie Huggins

With a stage full of hair rollers, block colour and crackling records, it is a natural instinct and instant pleasure to be swept along to the world of the swinging sixties in this vibrant production. Full mask theatre company, Vamos Theatre energetically tell a story of youth, sex and consequence in extremely surprising ways.

tell-us-block_editedWith perspectives from both from the future and the past, the audience is introduced and become rather attached to Susan (Louise Mellor); a likeable and free spirited teen growing up in 60s culture. With The Isley Brothers blaring in her room, drowning out her father, Bill’s (Aron De Casmaker), classical tunes downstairs – much to his dismay- it is obvious that, though sometimes disagreeable, their relationship is strong. Susan begins to revel in the fashions and frolics of a typically imagined 60s society – complete with the epitomical transformative makeover in the local hairdressers. After spending some intimate time with her boyfriend, Dennis (Marco Nanetti), post-makeover, something happens to change Susan’s life completely and has consequential repercussions for the future. Written and directed by Rachael Savage, while the story does not offer every last narrative detail, it does offer the audience just enough and is touching and sincere at heart.

The four performers who inhabit not only Susan, Bill and Dennis but multirole all of the characters along the way are, above all else, excellent physical storytellers and are highly skilled in their technique. Louise Mellor’s (Susan) innocent quality completely encourages the audience to invest in the character; which the play entirely relied on. Aron De Casmaker is completely convincing as an old man and offers some very emotional moments to the audience through his physical demeanour. Marco Nanetti’s seamless multi-roling is something to be admired as he effortlessly embodies one character to the next and gives each their own loveable spark. Hannah Kimpton is the fourth member of the ensemble and she too carries the story superbly and is totally believable in all her roles. Every performer understands their mask thoroughly, enabling precise animation and it is an utter joy to watch their creative play.

Every component of this production comes together to compliment each other – the sometimes subtle but other times vivacious music, which are commendably original pieces by Janie Armour, perfectly match the rhythms in the story. The interchangeable set, by Carl Davies, is entirely credible as all of the locations it serves – from café to hospital – and has extraordinary attention to detail. Davies also designed the exquisite costumes that are unquestionably 60s and charmingly aid the audience’s journey into this era. The masks themselves, made by Russell Dean, are detailed, charismatic and expressive and harmoniously work with the four performers who bring them to life.

The Best Thing is ultimately a hilarious showcase of exceptional craft in every area of the show. An inventive and colourful production that truly transports the audience with them on their 80-minute (without interval) journey. With the record set and the rollers ready, it’s a guaranteed entertainer and is sure to “make you wanna shout” too.

Reviewed on 25 March 2017. Continues to tour in the UK until mid-April | Image: Contributed

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