Located just under Waterloo Station, I match anyone to find a venue in London better connected than The Vaults. But because train timetables are still not as reliable as in, say, Japan I arrive at the Vault’s front desk only exactly on time, am then directed through the purple-haired, crunchy wearing Vault Festival crowds and arrive in front of the Cavern with a one minute delay. Memories come back to me of Victoriana themed evenings where you discovered something different going on in every cove and surely of Hair’s first tour stop of their 50th anniversary production.
For the first time in my life, I am confronted with a latecomer’s policy: The actors have asked that late comers are only let in at scenes with loud music. Luckily, I am in five minutes later and a couple moves closer together so I can sit next to them while the other late comers squat on the concrete floor. We are in an arched cavern indeed where wooden benches line along the acting space. Here we meet Jo and among others his parents, his sister, his mouthy roommate and his girlfriend.
Jo struggles to allow feelings and to show emotions. Obvious for everyone is though that he suffers heavily from everyday interactions, less obvious maybe that he also suffers from the pressure to talk about his issues when others want to and maybe also when others are not willing to listen when he might just be opening up. One day the buzz and noises of London seem unbearable and he undresses and attempts to jump from a – but no.
The audience is now invited to discuss the Campaign Against Living Miserably’s sadly still valid statistic that suicide is the biggest killer in the UK of men under the age of 45 while everyone who feels uncomfortable talking about a topic that personal is welcome to leave. No one does. People talk. And they continue to do so when we are all offered to shout “stop” while Jo’s trigger situations of dis-empowerment are staged again – then brave audience members enter the stage, replace a character and say what really should have been said. In the three replayed scenes, the actors truly prove their brilliance and unfold their improvisation skills. If time had allowed it, surely everyone would have stayed for another three re-staged scenes, but the hour is over. As a last task, we write our advice to Jo and his mate on a post-it and stick it on them. Mine says: “Do not avoid eye contact all the time”. Seconds later I regret the last three words – that was a nagging remark, and remarks as such do not help anyone. I am glad I remembered some cash for the CALM donation box.
Conceived by Sense Assembly and written by Michael Crean
**** out of 5 stars
Played until 2 February at the Vault Festival which continues until 22 March 2020.