VAULT Festival, comprising six weeks of live entertainment, began last week at the amazing subterranean venue The Vaults under Waterloo Station.
I was there to see A Year from Now, performed by Red Belly Black Theatre Company, who had asked fourteen people the following question: Where do you see yourself a year from now? The answers to this and other questions are presented in the show verbatim, in other words as a ‘lip synch’, along with physical movement and dance.
First we meet the five actors in their own voices, who introduce themselves and give some lively personal details. This is then subverted when the audio begins of other people’s answers, and the actors mouth the words to their voices, in groups or individually, and sometimes sharing the same voice between them.
There are particular scenarios and characters which work extremely effectively. I was really taken by the elegant old lady, played by Oscar Scott-White with some lovely gestures and who can now count her friends on one hand, and her husband in his nineties, played by Clementine Mills, who said he started to feel old when he got to eighty. This is a touching pair, and when we meet them again towards the end of the piece and the lady is reminiscing about being young and having lots of friends, we are reminded of the best things in life.
I also really enjoyed Scott-White as a teenage girl, who brought out the importance of having good eyebrows at school with much comedy and the perfect girlish stance, but also the poignancy of living between two parents and having to carry her stuff between them.
We also meet some victims of trauma, for instance the woman who has undergone radiotherapy and become pregnant against the odds (Jessica Warshaw) who tells us how she has had to learn how to do everything again. Warshaw is amazing at timing the dry yet tinkly laugh of this survivor, and we hope that news will be as good in another year from now. All of the participants in this scene remind us to be thankful for the life and the health that we do have, before we lose it.
Another favourite character is the comedian (voiced by both Christopher Montague and Warshaw) whose mother has died. The way they share the voice is very clever, and the direction by Vicki Baron is very moving as they are literally holding each other as they both speak the words.
I liked the idea that children were included, but I enjoyed this depiction less; it reminded me too much of a Haribo Tangfastics advert. I preferred Kate Goodfellow (who is the Producer/ Choreographer of the show, and the Artistic Director of Red Belly Black) in the role of the new mum of a baby. With her partner Montague, this is a couple totally unprepared for being parents and it is nicely expressed and, again, impeccably timed.
There are parts which don’t seem necessary, like some dancing between scenes, and parts that don’t work so well, like the children. However, A Year from Now shows very well that verbatim theatre can be a creative vehicle to explore themes in an authentic way. The talent of these performers brings out some genuinely moving moments and at times I had to pinch myself to remember that the person in front of me mouthing the words was not actually speaking them. I am interested to see what this company gets up to next.
I went to see A Year from Now on a press ticket for Ginger Wig and Strolling Man. A Year from Now has finished its 4-day run but VAULT Festival is still on with a packed, eclectic offering until 5th March. The underground venue and the graffiti tunnel are worth seeing if nothing else. Full details here.
For more details about Red Belly Black theatre company, have a look here.