VAULT FESTIVAL REVIEW: The First ★★★
The Pit, Vault Festival
Tuesday 11th - Sunday 16th February 2020
In the not so distant future, Rose and Simone are so very close to becoming the first astronauts to ever set foot on the Red Planet, Mars. They discuss what their legacy will be back home, and if they even will make it back after years of outer space; they always plan what other firsts they would like to conquer, such as sexual interaction, despite their preferences, as well as reminiscing about those they have left behind, whilst Marcus and Aisha back on Earth must write two contrasting speeches, one for the journey’s success, and the other for a pending disaster.
Situated in The Pit, we as an audience feel a part of that journey with Rose and Simone; though they speak about how lonely they both feel inside, we are practiculary right beside them rooting them on with their journey; we experience their excitement and worries, and feel like we know them as real characters, something that Barry McStay’s writing handles perfectly with realistic yet flawed creations, something that we can relate to; when we are thrown back down to Earth with Marcus and Aisha, we would rather still be up with our trepid explorers, as they edge ever closer to making history, until disaster strikes, and all their work feels like it’s been worth nothing. McStay builds up tension in a very subtle way, and whilst there is a lot to pack into a 60 minute production, it’s handled seamlessly, though a little less Marcus / Aisha would have been ideal, especially in the final scene which doesn’t add much substance, and could have been left with an uncertain cliffhanger which would have come off more appropriate.
Katrina Allen and Daniel Ward bring these four polar opposite characters to life, and in most part we warm to them pleasantly; whilst there isn’t a defined chemistry between the two, which should be paramount considering Rose and Simone’s mission and time they would have spent together, they lift McStay’s words off the page with a decent appetite, though it’s Lucia Sanchez Roldan’s Lighting and Delyth Evans’ design that truly stands out and makes us the atmosphere thrive, with the vivid red planet illuminated against the back wall, whilst a white walkway and led strips pave way to divide the traverse staging.
Overall, this hugely ambitious story does exceptional well in providing a fresh take on the sci-fi genre with stunning technical designs and direction from Emily Jenkins when Rose and Simone are heading out on their voyage, but falls a little shy on adrenaline when we are constantly hurled back down to Earth with a script that seems to push repetition and unlikable characters that we would rather get away from, and instead head out into outer space ourselves.