Vaults, London – until 4 March 2017
Guest reviewer: Michael Davis
As the Welsh part of Celtic Trilogy at the VAULT Festival, Over The Limit Theatre with Siren has arguably saved the best to last. Directed by Rosa Crompton, and written by Sasha Wilson and Joseph Cullen, Siren is a delightfully dark comedy about murder and the reasons one could justify this most extreme of actions.
Eleanor (Wilson) and Stuart (Cullen) travel to a remote hotel in Wales to meet up. Except this isn’t a clandestine romantic break, though it does at first appear that way. They’re on the lam and need to lay low for a while.
Jumping back and forth between the present and how the couple first met, two things are revealed. Firstly, what has brought them together is their capacity for killing. In Stuart’s case it was a one-off occasion under heightened circumstances, but Eleanor has long accepted it’s a part of who she is – it’s practically a lifestyle choice. For Eleanor there’s always a rationale for someome being on her list, though half the fun of the play is what petty reason she comes up with. Next target: the taxi driver who didn’t drive her to the hotel because his wife wanted him home for his dinner!
The play is very funny, with different layers of humour. Old-fashioned puns initially make a foray, which aside from being unexpected at the beginning, give the audience permission to laugh throughout. Then there are acknowledged cultural stereotypes, such as the U.S. perspective of Europe, the different ways of pronouncing words and names (“Tomayto, tomahto” etc), and what passes as places of cultural significance in Britain.
However, what drives Siren is the friction arising from rule-abiding Stuart and compulsive Eleanor, who by her own admission doesn’t live by any such impediments. What we know (that Stuart doesn’t) is that Eleanor is trying to lure him, bit by bit, into taking another life and maybe once he’s found a taste for it again, be on the road to being a serial killer like herself.
I’m not certain everyone in the audience picked up on all the play’s historical and cultural references, but I am impressed with the way the many disparate, detailed threads in the writing all meshed with each other. I haven’t seen the marriage of gallows humour and rom-com embraced so readily since the likes of Sprocket Theatre’s The Rules in 2015.
In some ways it seems a shame that Siren only runs during the last couple of days of the VAULT Festival, because it would make a killing (pun intended!) if it had an extended run in February.