Vaults, London – until 5 February 2017
Guest reviewer: Terry Eastham
Remember the old song,”if you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise”? Well, let’s bring it right up to date with some new lyrics so, altogether now “If you go down to the Vaults this month you’re sure of a big surprise”. Yes, the annual Vaults festival is back causing thousands of people to go underneath Waterloo station, walk along the fascinating road known as graffiti street and enter a subterranean world where not just every night is a different but every hour brings surprises galore. Last night I had my first visit to the festival of 2017, to see Jolie Booth’s one woman show Hip.
Now, the first thing about this show you need to know is that this is not an ordinary show. Any production that starts with a notice at the entrance stating “This is an Extra-live Performance. Audiences are invited to respond to a show in whatever way feels natural; Latecomers are permitted” is not going to be a run of the mill affair and Hip definitely isn’t. Like many of these shows, I have to try and avoid spoilers as they are shows to be experienced. What I can say is that Hip is a semi-autobiographical one woman show, based around objects found in a flat caught between two timelines: the home of Anne Clarke during 70s bohemian Brighton, and a squat established in 2002.
Jolie, is a natural storyteller who can tell an audience to look up and see a grimy skylight and that is indeed what they see when they look at the roof of the vault the show is in. When she points out a curtain in the corner of the stage and tells you this is the very dodgy bathroom in the squat, you can’t help but believe her. There is a real air of authenticity in Jolie’s delivery that means even if the entire story is fiction and she was in reality a silver spoon girl brought up in a Hampstead mansion rather than a bohemian young lady in a squat above Anne Summers, you would still believe every word.
What else can I say about Hip? Its part promenade, part immersive and part interactive theatre. It is all these and more and ultimately, it is a fascinating hour of theatre. The work that has been put into the show is immense with documents, letters, pictures, heck there’s even some spices. In fact, from an attention to detail point of view, this is probably one of the most thoroughly prepared shows I have ever seen. If I have one minor criticism, then it was the music which accompanied parts of the show. A few times I found it a bit distracting trying to work out why a particular piece was playing. But apart from that, I can’t fault the production. It even made me stop in my tracks and question everything I had ever thought about squatters and the societal importance of the squatting culture, now pretty much gone. I enjoyed those areas where Anne and Jolie’s life coincided and the lessons that Jolie learned from Anne as if she was reaching back forward from her time, making sure Jolie didn’t fall into the same traps that she did.
All in all then, my first visit to the Vaults Festival was a resounding success. Hip is a one hour exploration of people and the things, both physical and abstract, left behind after their ephemeral time on this earth and is highly recommended.