Run by Poleroid Theatre, this scratch night is well worth catching. It runs more regularly at the Hackney Attic, Castle Hotel Manchester and the Edinburgh Festival, but Vault Festival hosts it well too in the cavernous Brick Hall. Though the acts are all small or solo pieces, the theatre doesn’t dwarf them. The atmosphere is easy-going and the quality fairly consistent.
The highlight of the performance poets in attendance was Tom Gill, who presented the portrait of a warts-and-all relationship in and around the Central Line. The verse, interspersed with a plethora of tube stop puns, presented the London Underground as an A-Z guide for romance. Other performances included Skye Lourie, who showed great promise with a surprisingly touching piece in character as a pregnant Scottish teen. Her ode on acting, however, was a little too self-centred without self-awareness. Harriet Creelman showed perhaps a little too much self-awareness in performance, but her work itself was the most formally experimental of the evening, with ambitious imaginative potential. Lastly, James Cooney – a debutant to the stage – read a melodic piece about a girl at a festival. Similar to Gill in its ease on the ear and use of snappy quips, it nonetheless dwelt too much on the appeal of her physical appearance.
Character work included Lily Bevan, who won a couple of big laughs with an impressively bizarre Utah housewife, and Ben Maeir’s re-interpretation of Frankie Valli in a bubblegum pink flared suit. His overall energy was a lift for the audience halfway through the evening. The incest-themed script reading to round off would class as bizarre if it wasn’t for Laurent Mallet, a member of the Plague of Idiots. Though it would eventually lead to some small poems to end, the majority of Mallet’s set was silent, as he stepped gingerly about the stage and audience, taking mumbled drinks orders. It’s the kind of clowning that defies description, but is exemplary.
I’ve always enjoyed sketch groups like Goodbear, who require nothing but themselves to build a scene on stage. They played well with the planned nature of spontaneous transition banter, and led the audience nicely along for their game of office tag. Elsewhere Gabriel Bisset-Smith and Kathryn Bond frolicked dangerously close to the line on the Syrian refugee crisis, and worked well as an opener for the night. Finally, we saw Jake Mitchell and James Robert-Moore, in a dating sketch written by the latter. The writing here is clever: how do you successfully skirt around first impressions when your name is Peter Piper?
Luke Courtier, on last, was arguably the evening’s highlight. There’s a lot going on here: the play between stern sincerity and abject silliness was masterful. And if you’re looking for someone to chew over Netflix’s Making a Murder with (including an uncanny impression of prosecutor Ken Kratz), he’s well worth looking up on Twitter. His solo show Lunch is due to head elsewhere later in the year.
Write It: Mic It played at The Vaults as part of the Vault Festival. For more information, please see the Vault Festival website. Photo: Richard Davenport