Review: Crocodile, VAULT Festival

Vault Festival, sometimes described as London’s answer to the Edinburgh Fringe, is once again upon us. Amongst a wide variety of shows being presented is Crocodile. Joyous Gard’s tale is of a seemingly normal couple, Alan and Jane, who have a baby daughter named Sarah. So far, so good. The hook being that their darling girl is, in fact, a crocodile. Lasting an hour and roughly split into two monologues, one by each parent, Crocodile is a very dark comedy with one of the most bizarre plots I’ve ever come across. It’s an exciting, Tim Burtonesque concept, but the delivery sometimes falls a bit flat.

In the small space of The Network Theatre, just a short walk from The Vaults, the story unfolds on a dark stage with only a large chair as set and some tiny pink shoes, which presumably don’t fit onto Sarah’s baby crocodile claws, as props. Therefore, the unusual premise of the play is developed almost entirely through its two characters, Sarah’s parents.

Alan (Joe Eyre) is the first of the two to grace the stage, and his enthusiasm as a new father is unflappable. He delivers most of the sharp humour with a worryingly sly grin. Eyre conveys Alan, who demonstrates worrying reptilian traits, with a perfect balance of wit and malice. Some of the gags don’t quite take off, which is probably due to the nature of the play being so alien, and at times a little darker than expected. There are only so many times we can chuckle at the thought of the family pooch being ripped to shreds by a crocodile, daughter or otherwise. Rhiannon Sommers plays a tender and affected Jane, but her dialogue through the second half just isn’t as gripping and funny as Alan’s manic recollection of the events leading up to the present.

The lighting by Clancy Flynn and sound by Odin Orn Hilmarason breathe life into the production, but ultimately what could have been a magically abstract piece was brought too close to earth by imposing too much of reality on the mythical plot. Children may have been eaten, but calling the police just seems to ruin the fun. Beginning as a nightmarish fairytale and ending on a rather melancholy note, Joe Eyre’s writing is hilarious in places, and while Crocodile feels inventive and fresh, the line between fantasy and reality wasn’t quite blurred enough.

Crocodile played at the Network Theatre as part of the VAULT Festival until February 5. The festival continues until March 5.