REVIEW: The Significant Other Festival (The Vaults) ★★
As a concept, this festival celebrating the works of ten different writers under the umbrella of a unanimous theme and location to create one fluid piece of theatre is an interesting one- but unfortunately not entirely successful in it’s actualisation.
I applaud new ideas and new approaches to theatre, however, for me the disjointed vignettes and surface characterisations meant that I had no empathy for any of the characters and therefore did not really care what happened. There was no story arc, no big interval cliffhanger, just a series of at turns funny, at turns weak, occasionally but rarely moving and often cheesy scenes with clumsy period references and gags.
Having grown up as a child of the 80s, I knowingly recognised many of these (though I felt it rather overegged the pudding with the period theme, how many references do we actually need to Kylie and Jason’s Neighbours wedding?) Of course, this can be put down to the fact that every writer wanted to make a point about the era – another reason for me that the material did not work being shoehorned into one piece of flat theatre.
The concept had originally been advertised as “Immersive theatre” of the type popularised by “Punch Drunk” et al, and often to be found at innovative venues like “The Vaults” – though it is a buzzterm bandied about too easily these days.
To their credit, the producers sent out an email a day or so beforehand warning us that through rehearsals and workshopping at the venue the “immersive” element had largely ( infact I would say completely, bar being shown to our seats ) been lost. This I felt was a real shame, as I can imagine had the piece been more immersive, or staged as a traverse piece of theatre where we as an audience gained “snapshots” of different people’s lives and conversations in a less “staged” fashion it would have served the individual scenes better and felt more conceptual and exciting and less cobbled together. If the audience felt that they had “happened upon” moments in the day to day lives of these Thatcher era factory workers, they would have valued the scenes individually rather than struggling to make a connection with the scene or characters that came before.
My other criticism is that though the size of the ensemble cast was initially impressive for a play, it became clear that this diluted the drama and meant that we weren’t afforded the time to connect with, or form empathy for ,any of the characters- as they were replaced with new ones more swiftly than any factory conveyor belt.
The audience however were at times thoughtfully engaged, and certainly were laughing out loud throughout, so the sitcom style humour certainly appealed to many.
In summary-if you are looking for a slice of 80’s life, interspersed with easy laugh out loud humour then this production is for you. But other than that it is all a bit disjointed.
Reviewed by Nicole Faraday