VAULT FESTIVAL REVIEW: If This is Normal ★★★★
If This Is Normal
The Pit, Vault Festival
Tuesday 25th - Friday 28th February 2020
It's the summer before the start of uni, and Alex, Madani, and Maryam are going to have the best one yet, with festivals, drinking cocktails in the park, and in Mars case, watching ted talks and getting ready to study at The University of Bristol. If This is Normal is a tale of friendship, trust, relationships, whilst tackling the hard hitting subject of Consensual Sex and First Times.
We start with a flashback, were having moved to Kilburn London, Maryam (Zarima McDermott) and Madani (Isambard Rawbone) are finding the prospect of moving to a new school a rather daunting one, but it's until the end of their first day when Maryam makes friends with Alex (Aoife Smyth) and so begins a budding and tight friendship which shows no cracks and a strong sisterhood. The performance is structured around breaking the four wall, with monologues regarding internal emotions spoken towards the audience.
It's a beautiful touch that allows honesty and raw episodic individual takes on events, something that feels a different to most productions being showcased at The Vault Festival this year; at times emotions radiate towards us and make our hairs stand upon the back of our necks, especially during the latter half when tensions are starting to rise and secrets are being kept behind best friends backs. To address such personal feelings towards the audience also allows us to feel warmth, and makes us feel like we have known these characters all our lives.
Lucy Danser's script is both comedic and harrowing in the switch of a sound or lighting change which flows effortlessly, and though some costume changes take a little while in front of us, and some personal audience interaction might back others feel left unattended, the energy is clearly palpable, probably from the first night buzz that the company must be feeling. Danser excels most in her piece by showcasing and putting emphasis on the idea that not one person is to blame from the events that take place on one night in a club, and swiftly through to the following events; with three in the cast, there is a constant middle ground and detailed events of understanding that keeps us gripped and unsure of how to react, which is what keeps the pace exciting and awkward at the same time!
Overall, If This is Normal is an emotional and brave story which is told delicately and beautifully by a trio of actors who propel themselves into a world of freedom and love in a sensitive manner, giving full justice to a strong and honest script!