DramaLondonReviewVAULT Festival

V+15 – VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Louise Burns

Writer: Jo Sutherland

Director: Sara Reimers

This inaugural play by newly formed Nevertheless Theatre Company immerse us directly into a dangerous world. Women in this totalitarian Britain, referred to as ‘them’, have no identity. What happened we are not exactly sure, but their stories must be heard. Alina will put her life in danger and fight the oppressive regime. She needs help, which comes in the form of Vincent, a writer whose voice has also been silenced. Vincent has not been heard from in two years, until now, where they meet in a makeshift living space, possibly underground, most likely near Waterloo station.

Jack Sheeran’s set design with filthy curtains, a bedsit kitchen and, amusingly, a wooden duck—possibly a nod to life before society’s fall, create a believable home for Alina. Unfortunately, two jagged set pieces representing decayed walls perfectly match the Cavern’s and betray the site-specific space already established. Playwright Jo Sutherland does well to reference the trains rumbling nearby.

 The opening is promising with Alina and Vincent attempting to form an alliance. The dialogue unfortunately becomes heavy with political positions. The arguments are well-trodden and there is no room for Vincent and Alina to voice new, insightful perspectives. There is an insightful moment where we learn the origin of the play’s title V+15.   Apt themes of language and culture are suggested as Alisha refers to the numeronym E15 for volcano Eyjafjallajökullfi, which ‘no one could pronounce’. We sense her frustration at an intolerant society.

It is anger that galvanises the dialogue, and the actors are disciplined in their controlled performances. Sarita Plowman’s is physically expressive as the resilient and shrewd Alina (coping as well as she could in the costume of a heavy sweater in the heat of the Cavern), while Gianbruno Spena presents a mysterious stillness, in so far as the embellished plot turns allow.

It is more than pace that impedes this production.   Nevertheless Theatre Company bill themselves as a ‘female-led company that exist to platform female voices’, and yet Alina, in her fight, turns to one living writer, Salmon Rushdie.   The rest are dead, white, males. Hitchens– we are to assume Christopher, Kafka, Milton, and The Bible. For a play and company that seeks to celebrate the power of the written word, where is Naomi Alderman’s The Power (where girls rule the world), Margaret Atwood, Zadi Smith, Marjane Satrapi and her brilliant graphic novel Persepolis, or Caryl Churchill, whose 40-minute Far Away, currently playing in London, portrays a world toppling into disorder.

Sutherland has attempted to tap into the chaos of our globalised world, and in Alina and Vincent’s predicament she attempts to find a microcosm. In terms of drama however this thriller relies too heavily on the verbose, so that when the heightened action arrives it does not wholly convince. Ultimately, we learn nothing new.

Runs until 1 March 2020

The Reviews Hub Score

Political, no thrills

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. 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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