I went to my first one-woman-show on Tuesday and had very little idea of what to expect. The description of the play was limited to words such as “magical”, “surreal” and “anabasis” = “the name for a journey leading upwards: The first phase of an illness” (according to the flyer). In the end, I walked out with frost glazing my heart, icy like the February wind that whipped me in the face. While it haunted the inky night, Spark was equally disturbing and beautiful in its rendition of loss, hope, and betrayal.

 There is little point in explaining the plot of the play. It seems to be the story of a woman who weeps in the absence of her soldier boyfriend and is then surprised by his return and a ring. They take a trip to the island where they met and her fiancé dissolves into a spectre, leaving the woman with nothing but the recognition of her loss.

With bipolar intensity, the contrasting emotions of joy from love and pain from love are repeatedly underlined as actress Holly Campbell describes the thought processes that her character is feeling. It is a strange thing to watch someone verbalize their reactions, instincts, and emotions so that we, the audience, can grasp more clearly their significance. Quite surprisingly, the descriptive self-reflection made me consider my own over-thinking, ever-running, sound-barrier-breaking mind. Like a stream-of-consciousness poem Campbell intruded on my emotions with unprecedented force.

…The Vaults in general sparkle like a graffiti fairytale world…

 The location certainly underscores the play’s dark atmosphere. Grey brick walls exhale their moisture into the archway, making water drip from the ceiling. Two spot lights, egg-yolk yellow and chalk white, bathe the stage and its surroundings in a gloomy shadow. The Vaults in general sparkle like a graffiti fairytale world. In the bar area, gas canisters become a message-board and old metal desks support a popcorn machine. Lamps emit screaming neon lights and loudspeakers play caramel-coated Rock songs.

 There were a few things that I didn’t like about Spark – the girlfriend rant at the beginning and the unpleasantly humorous side-comments to the audience. Their language seemed amateur, especially as it was juxtaposed to some very lyrical passages. The endlessly rolling tension had no clear up and down, and created too many things to relate to and yet too few resolutions. At times, it seemed to take the form of a monotonous monologue in 21st Century English. But overall it was magical and certainly surreal.

 It also told the story of a journey and a story of decay – the story of a relationship that crumbles under the weight of loss and betrayal. As I left the vaults I could hear the rustle of the fake leaves behind me and I watched the wind catch the last grains of decomposed fairy-dust and blow them away into the darkness ahead.

Arts_3 Stars3 Stars

Tickets are available from The Vaults’ website for £10.  

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