RedBellyBlack Theatre Company‘s VAULT Festival offering is their 60-minute production, A Year From Now. Using a combination of physical theatre & sound recordings, it attempts to tell the stories of 14 people and how they see life panning out over the next 12 months.
From the actors themselves to a couple in California with a newborn baby, a group of people who have overcome serious medical conditions, and a young boy at nursery – amongst many others besides. Dotted in between these scenes are some dance routines & the more physical aspects.
I can’t say I really ‘get’ it. The ‘a year from now’ concept seems to be a bit of an afterthought in some of the scenes – obviously the past shapes who you are in the present, and who you can be in the future, but (to me) it goes against the idea of looking forward. The dance routines have no real bearing on the rest of the show – sure, it’s funny watching people dance to the Thomas The Tank Engine theme tune, but apart from that… Also, some of the physicality that accompanies the scenes doesn’t fit with what’s being said and can be quite off-putting. The production has been put on in aid of Mind, however it isn’t hugely clear why the association has been made, aside from a short speech by one of the company after the show (which surely defeats the object of the show?).
The idea of lip syncing to speech tracks is a clever one, and must require a serious amount of preparation. I applaud the ambition shown by such a move; some scenes could be done better (as the lip syncing is not always in sync), though there are a few exceptional moments that make up for them (mostly artistic director & producer Kate Goodfellow in toddler mode). What I would suggest is that some more variety be incorporated – the actors introduce themselves at the start, but from then until near the end every noise comes out of the speakers (be it speech track or music). This wall of sound is quite oppressive, especially if you are sat close to the front. If there was a way of injecting some more speech from the company once or twice in the middle it would be more comfortable.
By far the most engaging scene is that of the four people who are on the road to recovery following, respectively, a stroke, meningitis, a serious head injury & cancer. It is rather long compared to some of the others, but worth it to see that there is hope – even if you have a life-threatening illness.
In addition to Goodfellow, Jessica Warshaw also stands out with some exemplary lip syncing & acting – including capturing one of her character’s laughs to perfection. She could almost be speaking in real life, it is that convincing.
This show isn’t really my cup of tea, but I do appreciate the amount of technical work that must have gone into making it. With a little more audio variety (perhaps the company could introduce themselves separately, rather than all at once) it could feel a little more complete.
My verdict? Some innovative ideas & interesting stories, though the theme is sometimes lost – this is more one for fans of this brand of theatre rather than newcomers.
A Year From Now runs at the VAULT Festival until 29 January 2017. Tickets are available online or from the box office.