EFR - Reviews of Vessel

Vessel

Fri 3rd – Mon 27th August 2018

reviews

Shauna Lewis

at 08:59 on 9th Aug 2018

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Often, plays focused on social justice can feel forced and contrived around their particular issue. Bringing a welcome subversion, ‘Vessel’ looks at the emotional journey of Myra having an abortion before the Irish abortion referendum. Although it is focused on her right to choose, her burgeoning friendship with the journalist covering her story gives a poignancy which would otherwise be hard to achieve.

It was a distinctly feminist narrative, which I appreciated, as it emphasized the woman’s right to choose. Whether it was the journalist David wanting to tell the story of a suicidal woman, or Myra wanting her story told in her own words, the play emphasized the importance of their consent to it all. This isn’t to say they didn’t look at the other side of the argument: it was hard not to agree with the journalist as he argued that the people needed to know a female refugee had been raped. Still, the story was careful to assert the importance of female voice.

Performers Laura Wyatt O’Keeffe and Edward De Gaetano provided a sweet dynamic and at some points it seemed as if it may have blossomed into a romantic relationship. Their friendship shown was just as easy to invest into. Their tug-of-war dialogue sat alongside an enjoyment of each other’s company. As those values began to align it was clear how much they valued the opinion of the other.

In this relationship, social justice was shown to not be the most important thing, and the focus was on the happiness of its individual characters. For me, this is why it was much easier to emotionally invest in the play. Their bickering and moments of cheerfulness gave it a humanity which social justice plays often lack, as they push machine-like to an end result for the audience to recognise.

This was helped along by the writing. None of it felt forced, nothing felt too staged. It was personal, as if you were getting a real snapshot into their journey. Performing on a bare stage, they evoked the setting by describing every aspect of the room they were in. Initially I thought this would be tedious, but the movement of the actors around the stage and the integration of convincing dialogue was incredibly effective and helped me visualise the setting.

Although the Irish referendum was intrinsic to the plot and gave it more of a political drive, it was clumsily introduced, and by adding this contemporary political element so early on, it tainted the personal relationship we had with the characters, even if it did retain a personal feel.

A cheerful and heart-warming political story, ‘Vessel’ makes for an engaging production which consistently pulls the viewer in, without pushing the message too hard.

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Ella Gryf-Lowczowska

at 09:54 on 9th Aug 2018

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The most lamentable fact of the Fringe is that the audience for “Vessel” consisted of only four people, once you count my co-reviewer and I. This show deserves so much more. “Vessel” is a fearless two-hander, written and lead by Laura Wyatt O’Keeffe, and it strikes me as tragically autobiographical.

The play begins with Myra [Laura O’Keeffe] sitting centre stage in an adidas tracksuit, shoulders hunched, looking particularly forlorn and dejected in comparison to the suited man [Edward Degaetano] who sits next to her. It transpires that Laura is a receptionist in a refugee centre, and that it was whilst taking a pregnancy test in the toilets there that a refugee lady, who had been impregnated by her rapist, begged Laura for her help. Unexpected events assert themselves in this plot, but in the end, after unapologetic tweets and pro-choice articles go viral, and after a voyage across the North Sea, a referendum and an impromptu engagement party, justice is finally served for the women of Ireland.

“Voyage” uses a number of interesting techniques to chart the difficulties that Irish women faced before the nation voted to legalise abortion in May of this year. For starters, the narrative is not linear; the pair intermittently break out of their roles and jump forward or backward in time to deliver a third person perspective on their own lives. For example, the scene in which Myra is in the midst of cooking spaghetti hoops for her nephew when she breaks the fourth wall and opens up about how her family will inevitably shun her once they learn of her abortion is particularly poignant.

Admittedly, “Vessel” is pretty hard-hitting, and the audience get little respite from the harrowing reality of Myra’s ordeal. But the moral of the story is important: in the dark our stories will rarely be worth much, but the brave must blaze trails for others to tread. In this play we see man and woman come together as this journalist and this receptionist join forces to fight for women’s right to choose. The eminent theatre critic Bryonny Kimmings once concluded that, "Vessel is a timely yet timeless play about how we value women and fertility," but it is also about the strength of a story and the force of human bravery.

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