It’s no news that arts funding often seems like a wishful hallucination for emerging artists. So in these often disheartening times for young creatives, it’s inspiring when you find work that’s creatively using the many hidden spaces of the city, giving artists room to experiment and showcase their work outside mainstream theatre-land. Turning the heat up until March, The Vault Festival in Waterloo provides a space for new work, and despite the dampness of the dark graffitied tunnels, it has a vibe of quirky grunge and makes you feel you’re surrounded by the cool kids of the theatre underworld.

Certain Dark Thing’s Melancholy feels slightly strange in this environment. Its style lends itself to the world of inventive children’s theatre, married with puppetry, animation and physical theatre. It has an innocent sweetness, but its theme of losing one’s love and the pain of dealing with extreme loss resonates with all of us.

A scientist loses his wife and out of deep melancholy tries to bring her back to life, neglecting the child he artificially made but loves as his own. Through projection, dance and puppetry we follow their attempt to bring back what’s lost, discovering throughout that only time will heal open wounds. Without words and with music moving the characters into a world of reminiscence and loss, Melancholy does affect you in its own sweet way.

Stephen McCabe expresses the scientist’s intense grief through imaginative movement and energy, and despite being a puppet, his little girl becomes more alive than anything onstage and evokes some real sympathy and love from the audience. The puppet design is just adorable and thoughtfully operated by Sarah Morgan and Laura Romer-Ormiston who bring real charm to it.

The use of objects is exciting and adds to the fluidity of the piece, though the music sequences can become a bit repetitive and work as a means of filling the space between action. The songs have a soft melancholy about them but seem almost too light in places – a contrast to the innocence of the puppetry and animation would have been more thrilling. That said there are moments that warm us, moments that makes us smile and really feel for these characters. Though the animation could have been edited of its slight sentimentality, this little piece shows a glimpse of what sorrow and loss can do to us and the ones we love, and how we can overcome it. The design has a delightful darkness and charm to it, and with the dim lighting and effects it feels like being in the thrilling mind of a passionate inventor.

With only 45 minutes, Certain Dark Things bring a taste of something slightly other-worldly to the tunnels; something that warms us in the darkness of the vault and makes us smile on the way home.


Melancholy is playing at the Vaults in Waterloo until 14 February. For more information and tickets, see