“V+15” by Jo Sutherland,
Nevertheless Theatre Company, Vault Festival 2020. Thursday, 27th February, 2020.
If a paramilitary faction of Extinction Rebellion tried to force George Monbiot to lead a violent revolution against our totalitarian overlords, I imagine their arguments might sound like this. Alina has finessed a one-to-one with Vincent, a once-radical free-speech advocate, who has been mysteriously silent while their country sinks deeper and deeper into the control of an unspecified authoritarian government. The hour-long play is a game of morality tennis as the two probe and parry each others’ rationalising. The competing view-points were presented passionately and coherently, and I found them convincing as they unfolded in front of me, though they got more opaque as the arguments proceeded. That’s not a fault of the piece, that’s a strength – the competing arguments got fuzzier as they developed, because the play was fundamentally about moral compromises. When do your actions become antithetical to your intentions? I liked the force with which this problem was explored, I enjoyed the intensity of the two actors (Sarita Plowman as Alina, Gianbruna Spena as Vincent). Their relationship was powerfully and clearly developed. I particularly enjoyed the reference to the horrible flat being close to a busy train line, thereby effortlessly co-opting the overhead rattle of Waterloo traffic into the fabric of the play.
I had two criticisms. Sara Reimer’s direction was a bit busy. She had two intense actors to work with, and leaving them to engage with each other would have strengthened the piece. There was a vast prairie of playing space, and I guess the thought was to use it all, but the tendency to get up and wander around reduced the nicely built-up tension between the actors. There is also a particular problem that I have with paranoid thrillers, which is that I presume everyone is going to betray everyone else at some point, so it’s less of a bolt from the blue when it happens. If the climax of the piece is the surprise revelation of treachery and that isn’t a surprise, impact is much reduced. Though I do recognise that this might be particular to me. Maybe everyone else left the theatre thinking “Well! I didn’t see that coming…” in which case, a fine job was done by all. There was a very nicely played coda which recast my assumptions, which is probably what you want from a plot-twist.
A well-developed, well-acted, slightly over-written, slightly fussily directed piece, but well worth the watching.
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