Couple Katie and Dan await-with great trepidation- Nick’s arrival in this queasy three-hander from writer/performer Laura Mead. Clinically depressed Dan, bored and fidgety for new experiences after suffering the extreme, limiting effects of pandemic lockdowns, has canvassed for a partner to join him and Katie in a threesome. This is not, he is quick to say, to jumpstart a moribund relationship, merely an interesting experiment. As the anxious chit-chat unfolds, filling the cramped space with nervous energy, it’s clear Katie may be indulging the whims of her more enthusiastic boyfriend. Witty asides keep the wolves at bay. For her, Friday puzzle nights and snuggles on the sofa are fulfilling enough. What Dan may view as an amiable if unexciting sex life suffices. The word vanilla, it is agreed, will be used as a safe word in the forthcoming sexual congress should she want to stop. Of course, its reductive description of a plain or unadventurous nature is also suggested.

Dan (played to fuzzy perfection by Ned Wakeley) is a bundle of wriggly discomfort, retreating from direct questions, evading any and all calls to explain or clarify his positions. He’s a master of the sidestep and dodge. Katie (a sincere, reasonable Mead) is much more straightforward and honest in her dialogue. His choice of sexual partner will come to have great significance. As will his quick, rigorous defence of a colleague of Katie’s who has been called out on drug use. Weaselly Dan is a furtive keeper of many secrets. 

As soon as Nick appears (a suitably smarmy Scott Henderson), he sets about exploiting the unsteady ground beneath the couple’s feet, seizing upon the barely hidden flaws and fault lines. A ruthless opportunist, he will use any wile in his arsenal, artfully seducing both individuals, offering himself accordingly to each of their needs. He is confidentially fluid, almost callous in his disregard for rules. He dominates with an assured sexual charisma. The two are helpless not to submit to his irresistible pull. Katie and Dan will be shaken and stirred by this interaction and indelibly marked. 

Mead and director Keith Swainston craft a careful, nuanced tension in the buildup to the inevitable arrival, as the couple’s conversations play out intriguingly as the movements of a boxing match, a series of punches and feints, the uncomfortable exchanges of two people not certain of what they are about to experience and its dangers. As soon as Nick enters the stage, the action picks up the pace and accelerates. Mead burns through the material, almost too quickly. The end seems abrupt and truncated as if missing a few essential beats. A closing gesture by Nick lacks credibility with what has been shown to that point (unless it is proposing that Nick, too, has hidden depths). Mead and Wakeley bring their respective characters to anguished, vivid life, caught up in a complicated, misguided equation, and Henderson is magnetic if essentially a cipher (as he needs to be, a mere catalyst). But it’s easy to feel sideswiped by the swift, hellbent conclusion.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


VAULT Festival has been left without a venue for 2024’s festival and beyond
• VAULT Festival have launched a #SaveVAULT campaign
• The campaign aims are to raise £150,000 by 19th March to support the festival’s survival AND to secure a new home for the festival to continue.
• You can help by donating, helping access funding networks, and helping then find a venue.
• You are officially implored to make the most of 2023’s Festival while it lasts!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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