All of the many things that come with pursuing your dreams in London – finding your best friends, persevering even when you are getting dispirited, and believing in yourself – are wrapped into the charming play Setlist.
Setlist, performed at the Hen and Chickens Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe, is written by Anne Vanderelst, who also stars in it alongside Harry Powell. It is directed by Tom Ling with technical operations by Ellie Birch.
Iris (Vanderelst) opens with a song, instantly wowing me with her soulful voice and lovely, soft acoustic guitar. Her lyrics effortlessly capture the emotions she felt with each experience (Can I get a Spotify playlist, please?) without sounding at all cheesy or cliché. The stage is set with a single mic on one side, where Iris sometimes goes to narrate, and a living room setting on the other, where the scenes play out in real time.
What drew me to this play was the interdisciplinary nature of it. As someone who is interested in the inspiration behind works of art, I absolutely loved the link between the plot and the songs. I’m not sure how much of the play is based on Vanderlest’s life, but it felt very authentic – like I was listening to a friend rather than watching a play.
Iris and her roommate/best friend, played by Powell, share both heart-warming and raw scenes, and their chemistry is undeniable. They encourage each other, giving hugs, comfort, and when needed, real talk. Their scenes together show just how impossible it is to live in a city like London without real friends who will lift you back up when you fall down.
I believe Setlist is something everyone should see, especially if you are pursuing a career in the arts. There is comfort and solidarity to be found in Iris’s story. Vanderelst successfully conveys that the value of the experience doesn’t always lie in the big break. There are many more extremely valuable things that come with it – the friends you meet, the joy you bring people with your art, the mistakes you learn from, and the growth you undergo.
Setlist is a raw, beautiful, and humorous play, and the original songs entwined in it makes it all the more special. It was performed at the Hen and Chickens Theatre August 7th and 10th.