The Vaults, London
Rory’s taking her dad on his dream trip to the North Pole. The geography teacher has always wanted to be a proper explorer, and Rory grew up hearing stories about historical adventurers setting out into the great unknown to discover the world. The thing is though, Rory’s nicked her mum’s credit card and her dad’s dead.
Equally endearing and moving with light touches of comedy, Tatty Hennessy’s coming-of-age monologue is well-crafted, staged simply and performed with an easy vulnerability.
Gemma Barnett is an initially understated Rory, but her presence grows along with her character’s confidence. She captures the precarious balance between insecurity, innocence and invincibility that is a trademark of older teens that aren’t quite ready to be fully independent. It’s endearing to watch her foolish bravery take shape, and by the end of the play, she owns the space.
Hennessy’s story is a simple one, but told with enough conviction and detail for it to feel plausible without being too heavy with description. It’s reflective but action-driven, emotionally honest but not indulgent. Atkinson’s direction is subtle, though additional design elements would give this production more sophistication.
A moving, gentle climax gets much of the audience sniffling, but there is one particular niggle that sticks in my mind – the story is unarguably middle class, made more palatable by the character’s upbringing and access to ambition and finances. I wonder how it would unfold if Rory’s dad was a builder rather than a geography teacher and her mum had a lower limit on her credit card or went into debt to pay for the funeral. Regardless, this is a wonderful adventure that’s executed with clarity and precision.