Vaults, London – until 5 February 2017
“We’re gonna Jean Valjean the shit out of this.”
PLAY – The Subterranean Season takes in plays 23-26 in their ever-growing programme of short plays, devised in just two weeks by a collaboration of writers, directors and actors up for the challenge of creating something sparklingly, spankingly, brand new and fresh. I saw PLAY Theatre Theatre Company for the first time at the VAULT Festival last year and fell for them hard, as is evident from the pull quote they’ve opted to use on their publicity this year (one for my scrapbook!).
As ever, the four PLAYs cover a wide range of themes and styles, from the deceptively whimsical to the psychologically acute, sometimes within the same 15 minutes. For me, Aisha Zia’s 24 and Miriam Battye’s 26 achieved this balance perfectly, the former (directed by Holly Race-Roughan) mixing hipsterish shenanigans with guitars and cardboard boxes with a darkening look at the desperation of flat-hunting in South London. And the latter’s portrayal of an intense friendship was breath-takingly good, Matt Harrison teasing some sensational work from Emily Stott and Jessica Clark.
For me, Abi Zakarian’s 25 didn’t quite work as well, despite intriguing performances from Leo Wan and Eleanor Hafner, remaining a little too vague in its depiction of institutional meltdown in some kind of rehab. But Kate Kennedy’s 23 had a lovely playfulness to it, Anthony Lau neatly directing the swoops and swerves of Emily Barber and Patrick Osborne’s sibling rivalry. PLAYing remains lots of fun indeed.