The Vaults, London – until 21 April 2018
Guest reviewer: Emma Burnell
This piece has so much promise it is worth seeing this week in its raw form to understand the journey that the hopeful end product will go through.
It is the end product of an interesting experiment, weaving ten 10-minute plays into one – more or less – coherent whole. It does this by showing us different aspects of factory life one day in 1988 leading up to the retirement party of factory stalwart Jack.
There are some caveats…. the play does have weaknesses that are in part a result of its own deliberate process, and in part, a stark expose of the current state of the industry.
On its own failings, it’s too long. It needs a damn good edit, something not quite in the spirit of the festival it stems from but essential if this work is to have longevity. Ten 10-minute plays became close to two and a half hours of drama. And by its bitty nature, it couldn’t really sustain interest because we didn’t connect emotionally with the 30+ characters who we were introduced to as we went from scene to scene.
Where I felt it exposed wider problems was in the casting. Not that most of them weren’t talented interesting performers. But to be blunt, too many of them were too posh. Blind casting is an important innovation that means we see interesting new takes on traditionally male and pale roles, but here it meant seeing a lot of very well-spoken, metropolitan, Southern middle-class people talking about never escaping their provincial factory existence. It didn’t work.
But there was a great deal of charm there ready to be found once you put away those qualms. There were some standout performances – in particular Anthony Cozens as factory owner Nigel, Jayne Edwards as his secretary Joyce and Kate Tulloch as the ambitious Simone.
This was a piece with a lot of different emotions in it. Far less political than I expected from the setting, it focused more on interpersonal relationships than those simmering under the surface between bosses and workers. Sometimes this was incredibly moving. And I think with so many vignettes, we can all see ourselves in there sometime. So everyone will go home having connected to something in the play.
As the culmination of ten days’ work, this is an incredible achievement. I just hope they don’t leave it at that but develop the bits of it that really work. It has a great deal of potential.