What happens in the underground world of The Litterati should stay underground, and not published in a magazine article that Millie (Eleanor Cresswell) originally intended to file. Quite what happens instead is left for the audience to speculate. It’s not, on balance, necessarily a bad thing to end a show open-ended. I suspect the magazine editor doesn’t pay Millie a penny, and gets someone else to write an article on the subject in question instead – as straightforward as that. But, abandoned by her girlfriend Hattie (Gabrielle Nellis-Pain) on account of infidelity (fair enough), she has also been kicked out of Hattie’s property (I can’t remember whether it was a house or a flat). The ‘family’, as they call themselves, that she has been associating with, have no more room in their inn, so quite where she ends up is also left unresolved.
Roseanna Brear’s Reeda does well as the shy introverted bookworm who comes out of her shell and becomes almost overly articulate, but this sort of character development felt like it has been done before. Think Gator in Memphis The Musical, or Sister Mary Robert in Sister Act The Musical. Too quiet to begin with, but by the end, all they wish to say is loud and clear.
The Litterati, as this collective is known, is led by Dux (Sarel Rose). Aside from the aforementioned Reeda, there’s also Sunny (Mitchell Fisher) and Twix (Andy Umerah) – I have no idea what the etymology of these names are. They live together, though I can’t say what their overall purpose is, not for fear of giving away spoilers, but because I genuinely couldn’t figure it out. This is a young group that hates being labelled as a ‘gang’, but for all intents and purposes, that is essentially what they are. From what I was able to deduce, it appeared to me that they live for the present – ‘carpe diem’, seize the moment, ‘you only live once’, that sort of thing.
At one point, Dux decides they should all go for a riot. Again, what precisely this entails is ambiguous, as is the reason why. Notably, not everyone goes with her, and even more notably, no mention is made again of the said riot. Did it even take place in the end? And why force a riot into the narrative, except to demonstrate some sort of rebellious streak? Elsewhere, the questioning by Dux of Millie’s background and upbringing came across to me as hypocritical and too assuming. While the forefinger is pointed at Millie, three other fingers of the same hand are pointing back at Dux. But then again, who says the protagonist has to be flawless in terms of characterisation?
I do wish this show were a tad pacier overall – I found it hard going at times. The general premise of the group is nothing new: a small band of people, very different, who look out for one another. But I found their insularity very odd, and yet somewhat refreshing, in a world where so many seem to clamour for fame and fortune, Dux and her associates would just like to be left alone to get on with things. That Millie obliges in the end, is really quite admirable.
The problem with their ‘us four, no more’ approach is that it is difficult to have much, if any, empathy with them: “So what?” was the prevailing thought in my head as I left the theatre. As with The Bodyguard (the movie or the musical, take your pick) there are unexpected consequences for the central character that mixes the personal with the professional. The script needs tightening, but this is nonetheless an unusual and thought-provoking play.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“There’s no space for us to create anything. Don’t you see? No allowances, no opportunities. No space. So I’m asking you a question: How do you make space? Hmm? How do you make space for yourself in this world? The answer: You burn.”
Millie lives with her girlfriend, Hattie, who works in insurance in the City. Millie wants to be a serious journalist. At VICE.
Now’s her chance – she’s got to write an investigatory piece about the Litterati, a notorious community of which little is known but rumour. When Millie agrees to spend a week with the mysterious gang her world is blown open and she collides with experiences and people she can never forget.
Pushed underground by a world that didn’t want them, the Litterati live a clandestine existence so far removed from Millie’s sheltered experience of the world. But do those who fall behind always get left behind?
25th – 29th Jan 2017
Wednesday – Sunday, 19.30
+ Saturday matinee, 14.45
VAULT Festival 2017
runs fom 25th January
until 5th March at The