Review: NOTCH, VAULT Festival

Ever wondered what would happen if the thoughts of a lost, travelling European girl manifested themselves and led you on a journey through poverty and xenophobia in Dublin. Well, Danaja Wass has created just that in a harrowing, manic performance embracing the truth behind landing in Ireland as a non-Celtic local.

Through the use of aesthetic videography, loud music, play of characterisation and a plethora of accents, Wass takes her audience of a whirlwind journey of dealing with prejudice and sleeping rough on the streets of an Irish city, thrown in with difficulties of coming to terms with female sexuality.

Wass’ likeable character supports the piece through its entirety, and despite the constant change of pace and accent, her ability to make quick gags and below-the-belt jokes despite being in the midst of intense dialogue about immigration and injustice keeps the piece on its toes for the entire hour.

However, due to the wide set of subject matters Wass tries to cover, some of the piece’s integrity and rawness is lost due to an audience’s inability to keep up with the storyline. A way that this barrier is attempted to be overcome is through the structure of labelled chapter shown on the television screen present throughout the entire piece. This choice of abstract form and style hinders the ability for an audience to engage in the densest part of the piece, therefore certain artistic elements are lost and feel present simply for the reasons of ticking another box of modes of performance to include. An example of this is the erratic introduction of loud overhead music, static images and videography on the television and spoken word, all having significant meaning but becoming slightly overwhelming when all presented  at once. 

An ominous setting is evoked at the exploration of sexual abuse, suicide and mental health in the later parts of the piece, bombarding an audience with intense subject matters in what felt like the last ten minutes. A desire for resolution and a ‘happy ending’ looms upon the audience towards the closing scenes, however we are left unsatisfied when the final speech breaches topics about her home in Eastern Europe and her disappointment in not succeeding in her suicide attempt. The helplines at the bottom of the information leaflet were simply not enough to prepare an audience for the intensity of the issues presented by Wass, however the storyline and likeability of the performer lead an audience to investing in Wass’ piece, despite not having full grasp of its intentions.

Notch is playing the VAULT Festival until 23 February. For more information and tickets, visit the VAULT Festival website.