THEATRE REVIEW: Hip, Vault Festival

running until 5 February 

The Vault Festival has returned to its subterranean home under Waterloo station for a fifth year, once again fillings its buzzing spaces with a varied programme. My first taste of this year’s festival was Hip by Kriya Arts, a fascinating hour taking a peek into a stranger’s life, which reveals as much about the creator of the show as its subject.

hip-c-kriya-arts-3As with previous Kriya Arts shows, this is an ‘extra live’ performance, meaning – in a similar way to a relaxed performance – the audience are free to make noise, move around and even take photos. We’re also encouraged to get actively involved in the shaping of the show, choosing which elements to explore and reading extracts of letters or diaries. It makes the whole feel of the show more relaxed and instantly draws the audience together in a united experience; as well as a more accessible kind of theatre, this also suits the show’s subject matter as we are invited into the living room of a squat, making our way into the building after an introduction outside The Vaults front entrance.

The semi-autobiographical show is created and performed by Jolie Booth and charts the timeline of her life alongside that of Anne Clarke, the previous inhabitant of her flat. Along the way, we discover similarities between the two women’s lives, but also the differences: the choices that each woman made and the consequences these had in their relationships, health and happiness. Booth is an engaging host, her honesty and openness creating a warm rapport between performer and audience and removing any of the fear of interactive theatre or audience participation. It’s also a fascinating insight into 1970s bohemian Brighton: Booth has researched her subject extensively and, by speaking to Anne Clarke’s family and friends, has built a touching history of a woman she never knew but feels close to. It’s a story of great sadness but also joy and humour and I found myself surprisingly engrossed by this woman’s fate.

At the heart of the show is the reminder that, behind every abandoned house or boxed-up belongings, is a whole life of adventures, joys and heartbreaks. While I do believe it’s important that theatre explores and tackles the big, punchy issues of the day, it’s also a delight to discover Hip: a show that evokes the complexities and influence of each individual in a tender and captivating piece of performance.

A tip: unless you’ve got a bad back, sit on the cushions at the front of the space for the best experience of the show.

Click here for more information.

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