There’s reason why Edinburgh is magical in August, why Adelaide is so packed in March and why underneath Waterloo station, for the last couple of years in February people have amassed to drink Greenwich beer underground and debate. Theatre Festivals like VAULT let companies share theatre with audiences that love the art form – it’s not about going to the National because you’ve got a season ticket, or going to the Old Vic because Fiennes/Spall/Spacey is up there doing something ‘unmissable’ – it’s about throwing around ideas with yourself, small companies making small theatre with big messages. It’s about the way small scale theatre affects you, the way it makes you wrestle with ideas on the tube home.
The Playground Collective, fresh from a run in New York, bring their newest show which started out in Wellington, NZ in 2014 to one such underground space with all the slickness and inventiveness that great fringe theatres needs. All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever is however, a particularly strange one. All at once it’s conceptual and fantastical – pragmatic and scatty. The journey the 4 actors take us on is one of T-junctions and choices, most of which we don’t get to make – indeed neither does our main protagonist who seems to be living his life played out on someone else’s screen – a blank white box that’s filled with someone else’s life-plan. This is the Truman show 2.0, but the trick isn’t just being played on our main character. It gradually seems to leech into backstage – into the world of the controllers.
It seems All Your Wants is tied up with the idea that at some point, all of our lives are being played out by forces out of our control. We’re all being kept alive, kept walking, kept going out –kept – whether or not this is a good thing, is probably a decision you have to make yourself, but the questioning seems to be the point. Wrapped up in this are themes of living with death, illness, the boredom of relationships and the 2D world that life can become, and it’s all tied together with some particularly fine performances, both physically and emotionally. Music and sound design by Gareth Hobbs is possibly the best I’ve ever seen in theatre of this scale, a deft and subtle touch with soundtrack that never leaves you wanting the physical work of this cast is second to none and from the puppetry to the dance, Playground Collective are a company that know what they are doing. The script could do with losing 10 minutes, particularly in one slightly over the top argument towards the end – and I’m not sure the final image of the piece has enough gravity to hit home, mainly because I think it is picking up a theme that is underdeveloped in the piece overall, but these are small quibbles in what is a gripping and moving piece of new theatre.
VAULT has become an integral part of my year, and last night’s offerings are no exception – All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever picks me up out of my seat, turns me upside down and throws me back into the freezing London night, with a thousand arguments to have and only a tube ride home to have them with. 4/5
Review written by Samuel Clay.
All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever is currently showing at The Vaults until Sunday 6th March as part of this year’s Vaults Festival. For more information on the production, visit here…