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SHRINE OF INNOCENCE – The Vaults, London.

Shrine Of Innocence  - Vault Festival London 2014 - Sam Mellish

Photo by Sam Mellish

There is a lot of comedy, lightness and sweetness* (see end of review) on offer at the Vault Festival this year, but you’ll not find it in Shrine of Innocence, instead, you’ll find three vignettes with dark obsession at their core, a triptych of neat stories that will leave you just a bit unsettled.

Using three different couples in the three different scenes we see the boundaries between adoration and obsession cracked open. The cast of three dancers, (Julie McNamee, Hannah Perryman and Giuseppe Mora) show us what happens when covetousness changes into twisted possession, and the dangers of giving in to unhealthy desires. We see a lifeless marionette, a figure to represent the object of desire for her obsessor, assume the characteristics he wants from her only for this imagining to overpower him and spurn him. We see a shy girl shown sympathy and friendship from an outgoing girl, only to find herself rejected once she finds that emulation is not as flattering as she thinks. Finally we see a possessive man try and mould a submissive woman, try to prop her in a chair, control her movements, control her everything, until losing his patience and sectioning her off as an idealised woman while he fulfils his needs with another.

Throughout, the theme of the scenes is that one person is obsessed with the other to the extent that they build a shrine to them using personal objects and picture collages (a nice detail is that the collages are in the shape of church windows, possibly an echo of religious devotion?). The wretched devoted tries to make real the object of their desire, leading to some terrific movement sequences that variously take us through the pitfalls of getting what you wish for, the power of fantasy and the loneliness of obsession.

The performance is half an¬†hour-long, set in the damp rumbling belly of Waterloo Vaults. Playing off the setting and the fairly grim atmosphere of the location, this half hour works well when dealing with a single topic like this. There’s no sense of over stretching the material and the three mini stories cover the various approaches to the theme well.

Although there is very little talking, no more than three or four sentences at most, there are unfortunately a few moments where the production tells the story (as opposed to showing and allowing audience interpretation) a little laboriously. Although these parts are technically well rendered (the movement from Julie McNamee in particular is superb) the storylines could have benefitted from having these passages cut shorter.

The production isn’t going to change the world, but it’s an interesting take on what happens when an unhealthy secret desire becomes a physical reality. There is danger, lust, darkness and obsession, not bad for half an hour beneath the train tracks.

* Shrine of Innocence runs in a tandem with another half hour production called Shed (4th – 8th¬†February). This sweet, funny production from Laura Williamson and Lexi Bradburn provides an ideal comedic counterpoint to the emotional shades of Shrine. Possibly a one woman play with two women in it, we follow Barbara on the day after she wakes up (horribly hung-over) in the shed in her garden. Covering loneliness, breakups and making tea, the interplay between the two (Laura and Lexi) in telling this story is lovely to watch. At times it feels spontaneous, almost reactive and improvised, but there’s a solid story line here, one that tricks you into caring about Barbara and her happiness while you giggle.

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Reviewed 05/02/14

By Karl O’Doherty

4th – 8th Feb 2014
The Vaults, Leake Street, SE1.

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