The Vault Festival has quickly established itself as a brilliant place to spot new talent. Three years in, festival directors Mat Burt, Andy George and Tim Wilson and have really found their stride, programming a diverse season of work from a taxidermy puppet show to electronic opera.
Based on the Orpheus myth, Fat Man is Greek tragedy as stand-up. Martin Bonger’s musician is caught in a perpetual trap of performance, living and reliving the loss of his love behind a microphone and in
front of a hungry audience. He’s trapped in his own cycle of grief, a stagnant emotional state that makes it impossible for him to rescue Eurydice from the underworld and not look back. Bonger’s performance alternates between fragility and angry bombast. He is cradled by Philippe Nash’s transcendent original score, taking this painfully witty, very human tragedy up to the realms of the gods.
Wild World: Dark Side
Wild Worlds: Dark Side is an altogether more furious affair. Performance art collective Artful Badger pull you down the rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world of acrobatic cabaret. It’s incredibly discombobulating ride and a pretty crazy one. At points, as a performer peels off parts of a vegetable penis or a faun teaches you how to dance in a video game, it all feels a bit much. But let yourself get lost in this strange new world and it’s an exhilarating, oddly freeing experience.
Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Odyssey sees us return to the Greeks. Lecoq-trained George Mann does an impressive job of taking Odyssey’s epic quest into his body and twisting it out again like a conduit. As he narrates this adventure, jumping from character to character, each action is expertly executed and a whole world opens up in this crafted piece of theatrical choreography.
Equally imaginative, although not as successful, is Silent Opera’s Giovanni. On opening night they were beset by technical difficulties, so much of the awkwardness may be down to that, but this was a stilted affair. This is a shame as Steve Higgins’ electronic update of Mozart’s score is witty and Benedict Nelson and Frederick Long sing their hearts out as Giovanni and his manservant Leporello. But much of the contemporising feels superfluous. Do we really need the women in his life to be heard screeching through mobile phones? Any beauty of their arias is taken away by the mechanics of such a device. It also feels slightly galling that they have been physically removed from this production entirely – this is a misogynistic story as it is. This Giovanni needs to get a lot smoother before it will be able to steal many audience’s hearts.
Last but by no means least is Superbolt Theatre’s Jurassic Park, a sweetly low-fi piece that examines a dysfunctional family through Steven Spielberg’s classic film. It’s very funny, with some of the moments of recreation utterly ingenious. But as we see a father and his children playing at dinosaurs and trying to work out how to love each other, it’s powerfully touching too.
Dates: January 28–March 8, PN February 5, 12, 22, 27