I didn’t know that the Vault theatre existed, but I’m glad I do now. Situated in the depths of murky Waterloo, Vault is hosting a six-week festival, consisting of music, theatre, workshops and countless other events to get involved in. Already I’m getting carried away with the location, but it is exactly that – the Vaults transports you to another world. This rabbit warren, lit by hues of reds, greens and blues, creates a sense of discovery – it invites you to explore its crevasses. And I did just that.
Underground, a story set around the modern-day dating scene, sees two Millennials end up on a broken down Night Tube after matching on a mock-Tinder app, ‘happn’. (Actually a real app. Who knew.) While this may seem like an obvious attempt to make theatre accessible by acknowledging popular modern day technology, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead what occurs is a subtle exploration of the dangers and uses of online dating, and our dependence on it today. Some theatre can make you cringe when they whip out their iPhones in order to try and appear current, this was not the case with Isla von Tricht’s new play. Underground achieves the perfect balance of subtlety and visibility.
The dialogue leaves the audience with no time to process, as it comes thick and fast, with the pair trying to find their way around the awkward first-date feelings. Claire, played by Bebe Sanders, expertly presents a down to earth, no-nonsense twenty-something who doesn’t like being messed around. Michael Jinks, on the other hand, plays James, a cocky optimist with a sweet streak. Together they form the perfect couple: the good cop/bad cop, with both actors playing off each other’s strengths in order to keep the conversation and dialogue flowing naturally. Combined with this was the parrot-like ‘yeah’ man, Steve (played by Adrian Wheeler), interjecting every so often in order to keep the energy up when it felt in danger of dropping.
In terms of writing, I can honestly say it is phenomenal. The comedy is perfectly timed, with no overdramatic gags or moments where we feel forced to laugh. A personal favourite moment of mine is when the tannoy voice, reminiscent of the real TfL voice on the London Underground, begins to monologue over the sleeping bodies of James, Claire and Steve. This Big Brother-esque atmosphere is so perfect for the enclosed space of the tube carriage and it begins to inject a darker element to the piece. With lines such as ‘When was the last time you didn’t feel lonely?’, it recreates the vast expanse of London and its tendency to swallow you whole.
For only an hour of theatre, this piece encapsulates the feeling of living in London and the experience that comes with it. Something I’d highly recommend.
Underground is playing at Vault Waterloo until 31 January. For more information and tickets, see www.vaultfestival.com/underground