Thursday, 11 January 2018

REVIEW: The Crystal Egg Live at The Vaults Theatre

Stemming from H.G. Wells’s homonymous short novel, The Crystal Egg Live is an ambitious project that aims reviving a passion for literature, with the use of theatrical performance and the powerful visual language of cinematography. In doing so, Old Lamp Entertainment directs its attention in particular to the millennials, who have grown detached both from the stage and the literary tradition. 

Breathing life into this Victorian sci-fi story, a cast of eight, floats around the audience, invited to gather in one of the tunnels inside the cavernous Vaults. This appears to be a public square devoid of its central monument. A tramp – impersonated by the play's adapter and producer Mike Archer – informs me that we are in Seven Dials, where the council has unscrupulously removed the column to sell it to a different borough. As a result, many of the shops have been forced to close and all that's left is a violinist, playing a heartbreaking melody in the distance. 

When a fight between the trump and a younger bearded man called Charley (Desmond Carney) breaks, we're all invited to take a seat inside a shop, full of antiquities and oddities. The business belongs to Mr. Cave (Mark Parsons), a gaunt man with a visible limp and a vicious cough. 

After the sudden loss of his father, Charley has been invited by his uncle, Mr. Cave, to share his house with Mrs. Cave (Jessica Boyde) and their disturbed daughter Anna, incarnated by the extraordinary Carolina Main. Amongst the retrieved belongings of the deceased there's also a big crystal egg, that occasionally glows revealing a supernatural presence. This and some occasional references to life on Mars confer a sci-fi nuance to the play, but are never truly expanded. As a result, the plot appears stilted and its abrupt ending left me wanting to know more about the nature and provenience of the egg. 

Besides Simeon Miller's exceptional lighting design, the final product doesn't quite fulfil the promise of a multimedia experience. Equally, Old Lamp's strive for a multidisciplinary performance is limited to the play being adapted from a book, occurrence which is often the norm in a theatrical production. 

The Crystal Egg Live caters for a pleasant 90 minutes, however, doesn't stay true to its hype, despite the producers' creative potential. On paper, the idea of a marriage between light, sound, video and performance is rather enticing but, in reality, it just came together as in any other show where light and sound are ordinarily in use. As a way of improving it, I would suggest a further development of the plot and a stronger accent on the extra-terrestrial presence within it. 

Review by Marianna Meloni 

Rating: ★★★

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