Review: dreamplay at The Vaults
Written for Everything Theatre
The best summary I could possibly give of my visit to BAZ Productions’ new show dreamplay is this: my companion for the evening and I walked out of the venue, looked at each other and said something along the lines of, ‘what the hell did we just do?’.
Let me tell you the few things I’m fairly certain about in this show: there’s Agnes, a goddess or angel or some other type of mythical being, who comes to Earth to discover why people are sad. She ‘incarnates’ into the body of a woman to experience life as a human being, and to look for the door behind which she hopes to find the secret that explains sadness. As for the rest… well, you’d have to ask cleverer critics than me.
Apart from the main storyline (if you can call it that), dreamplay also features scenes that seem to be completely detached from the rest of the show. There’s a bit of a French play-within-the-play, in which the lead actress is controlled by cello music. At another point, the audience is herded into a classroom, where we sit on the floor and sing about animals. Presumably this is all part of the dreamlike structure and atmosphere of the production, although it’s a lot weirder than any dream I’ve ever had. (Just last night, I dreamt I went to buy frozen peas and forgot my wallet. Let’s hope no one will ever attempt to make a play out of that!)
Walking around the subterranean spaces of The Vaults, with the trains rumbling into Waterloo Station overhead, contributes a lot to the kooky atmosphere of the show. There were even moments when things got quite scary, particularly when the space was suddenly plunged into darkness. At these times, the show is at its best, and you could almost convince yourself you’re actually stuck in a dream (or nightmare) world.
The cast move about the place confidently and are very adept at directing and leading the audience, which is a relief; I’ve been to plenty of promenade performances where the whole thing ends up being much too long because moving the audience around is such a hassle. The performances are solid as well, although I had too little sense of individual characters to say much more than that. This, in fact, is an overarching theme in my experience of the show: the individual scenes are good, but it’s hard to tie them into a coherent bigger picture. Especially in the latter part, the proceedings start to drag a little and the play frustratingly circles back on itself. In the end, I walked out feeling none the wiser as to what the point of dreamplay actually was. Unless, of course, that was the point… I guess I’ll never know. But, despite my reservations, this was absolutely a unique theatre experience and one that I’ll remember for quite some time to come. If you fancy a bit of an adventure, dreamplay is the place to be.
dreamplay is playing at The Vaults until 1 October 2016