Review: Omelette, VAULT Festival

There is a black hole at the centre of this production: both literally in the black circle that lies centrestage, and symbolically in the psychological conundrum that lies at the heart of the metropolitan problem that it represents. If you are on the left – how true to your principles can you ever hope to live? If you are an activist – how far can you go in the pursuit of your ideals you claim to be fighting for? 

Girlfriend Mia (Anna Spearpoint) and boyfriend Mo (Kwami Odoom) try to go all the way with their climate activism, forsaking all conceivable luxury with the intent of becoming carbon neutral. They run, dance and mime around the black circle, eventually crossing its threshold, isolating themselves inside and becoming slave to idealised, myopic visions of how they believe their lives should be led. 

Omelette is very relatable content for this reviewer. Also written by Spearpoint, much of the satire about what it is to be young and in London is bang on the money – encompassing the pros and cons of veganism, the travails of living on Spare Room, or the anxiety triggered when you go to a climate protest and have left your tupperware and/or keep cup at home. Both ravaged by climate anxiety and a sense of social isolation, Mia in her bright yellow raincoat and Mo with his earing both sound and look like the kinds of people you find at climate protests. 

But the exactitude of the play’s social commentary is also where some of Omelette’s problems lie. While accurate, the satire is too closely aligned to reality: it simply relates the kinds of things that happen. It doesn’t add a layer of irony, or offer some extra profundity. Mia and Mo inevitably begin arguing and the life they have chosen loses its lustre. It is all a little formulaic, and rarely does the writing excite or complicate preconceived ideas. 

For a production that markets itself as pro-environmental – the programme is only available via QR code to save paper – the play’s tone sometimes feels too cynical. It seems at times to be intent on reducing those who are taking the climate crisis seriously as zealously following a trend, rather than acting proportionately to the genuinely apocalyptic scenario that scientific consensus suggests that we are facing. 

Spearpoint and Odoom have an easy chemistry, developed through the frenzied way both actors mirror their short, urgent lines. Director Tash Hyman keeps things dynamic through frequent diversion into sketches of love-making, yoga, sleeping or eating, all against an atonal electronic score (designed by Alice Boyd) that continually unsettles. But despite the care taken in showing their relationship, a real direct line of empathy is never generated between us and them. There is not enough backstory, or not quite enough immersion into who they are as individuals. Both characters are limited by the fact that – other than a slightly gormless, dry wit coming from Mia – they are essentially mirrors of each other.

Omelette’s environmental cynicism is resolved at the close, when a clever twist turns the whole production, rather unexpectedly, into an environmental call to arms. A tale of individual hope at a time of environmental and sociological decline, Mo and Mia’s shadows loom large throughout the performance against the rotting, gloomy walls of the Waterloo Vaults as the trains rumble along overhead. Despite the shallowness of some of the writing, it remains an interesting take on a vital issue.

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