DramaLondonReviewVAULT Festival

The First – The VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Louise Burns

Writer: Barry McStay

Director: Emily Jenkins

Barry McStay’s play, Vespertilio, explored loneliness and was awarded Best Show of The Week at last
year’s VAULT Festival. In The First, his second play for VAULT, McStay keeps with this universal
theme.

Astronauts Rose and Simeon have been chosen for the first mission to Mars. Culturally they are
from different worlds: America and Britain. Together they will make history. Meanwhile, back on
earth, true-blue American Marcus and British liberal Alisha compete to be the first to write speeches
that capture the enormity of this journey: One for success, and one for failure. Marcus is not happy
to share the writing accolade. “I work alone” grumbles Marcus. “I’m here” replies Alisha.

In this moving two-hander, actors Katrina Allen and Daniel Ward capture how to live together in
today’s divided world. It is a space that demands to be negotiated. As they float in zero-gravity,
Allen and Ward’s balletic choreography (by movement director Mikey Brett) is the refrain that
captures this dance.

On a grand scale this journey to Mars signifies a first for mankind. Meanwhile, on earth we continue
to live. We love, we fight, we hurt. We disagree, share wine and make do with Liquorice Allsorts.
“These are not good” declares American Marcus.

Emily Jenkins minimal staging allows the focus to remain on the actors, while reminding the
audience that this is a play about them. In this intimate space, the lighting creates moments when
the audience catch each other’s eyes: ‘I see you’.

This is also a play about history. Who are we if nobody remembers us? If there is no one to tell our
story? McStay’s play makes clear that it is ours to tell. We create our history, not somebody else
writing about it.

Runs until 16 February 2020

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Balletic

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