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Subterranean Season at The Vaults – Review

The Subterranean Season
The Subterranean Season – cast

PLAY Theatre Company has a strong reputation for providing bold, imaginative new work, combining a range of British talent to create, devise, write and present vignettes of life as we experience it today. In their Subterranean Season at the Vaults this year, PLAY offers up a tasty smorgasbord of flavours in a lovely big winter-warming hot pot, guaranteed to blow away the January blues. For in this season there really is something for everyone. If you like naturalism and some understated comedy, the first play, 23, will no doubt tickle your fancy.

Written by Kate Kennedy, this two-hander (assuredly performed by Emily Barber and Patrick Osborne) depicts an amusing, poignant altercation between siblings (twins?) outside a neighbour’s garden, with an unexpected twist at the end (always welcome). With no set to speak of, the dialogue and actors remain the focus, with director Anthony Lau ensuring that the dynamics of their relationship can be carefully teased out as the scene unfolds.

Next up, Aisha Zia presents an entirely different genre in 24, with music, physical theatre, and absurdity depicting the insane living conditions and soaring rent prices in, well, Peckham. Expertly directed by Holly Race-Roughan, this bizarre, abstract piece was not without some real substance behind its comedic overtones, and whilst the Stanislavski-sticklers out there might remain indifferent, you Laban-lovers will adore ‘24’.

25, by Abi Zakarian is where you drama gluttons will really find yourself getting fat, as the writer depicts the world of rehab as a variant of self-imposed prison.

In this rather bleak setting, we see two strangers slowly overcoming their prejudices to face their demons, emerging through the other side as friends, united against a common enemy. Whilst difficult to present the progression of a lengthy relationship in 15 minutes, 25 went from 0-60 fairly rapidly, and the audience can easily lose themselves in the atmosphere of the piece due to some astute direction from Hannah Hauer-King.

Finally, 26 – perhaps my favourite piece of the evening – combines experimentation with naturalism, like presenting a side of quinoa with your curry. Miriam Battye’s script is superb, lending itself to a lot of fun on stage as our 2 actors work through their intimately close friendship, whilst ardently asserting their heterosexual orientation. It’s hugely funny, assisted by some seriously slick direction from Matt Harrison and the uncannily synched performances of Emily Stott and Jessica Clark – they really didn’t miss a beat. The bittersweet ending is a reminder that people move on, flat shares don’t last, but the threads that link us to our soul mates will tentatively remain.

Thus, PLAY’s newest offering really does present a menu for all and is a thrilling example of exactly what can be achieved in just two weeks of collaboration.  Why not make a reservation today?

4 stars

Review by Amy Stow

After sell-out success at VAULT Festival 2016, award-winning PLAY Theatre Company are back with a brand new season of bold and brilliant work.
Over the course of the Festival we’ll be presenting eight box-fresh new PLAYs, created by the brightest and best emerging theatrical talent.
The Subterranean Seasons sees the return of PLAY’s distinctive brand of extreme theatre sport. We’ll be bringing together a company of – wait for it – THIRTY SIX of the hottest actors, writers and directors to share a PLAYroom. They’ll have just two weeks to collaborate, devise and create new work exclusively for VAULT Festival ‘17.
One hour, four short PLAYs packed full of variety. This is theatre at it’s freshest and most vital, brimming with bite, wit and charm.
Winners of the People’s Choice Award at Vault Festival 2016.

The Subterranean Season


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