Excellent Choice by Eye Saw Theatre
The Vault Festival, Old Vic Tunnels
On entering the studio, the audience was greeted by the ominous sound of a loud ticking clock. Each seat was adorned by a cork, labelled with the credits for the show, which was written by Rob Hayes and directed by Ned Bennett. The performance area was delimited by wine bottles. The space was clearly a wine shop.
At first I wasn’t sure whether this was a black comedy or a dark play with comic elements: as time progressed it seemed that the latter was the case. Although right from the outset there was very funny dialogue (“Are you open? Yes. I hate secrets”), the suspense was built from the beginning with some uncomfortable pauses,. However, the comedy was also present, with Benjamin Dilloway (the customer) putting me in mind of David Walliams in those Little Britain sketches where he enters a shop to buy a very specific item (eg,.pirate game, David Baddiel outfit), and Jeff Rawle (the proprieter) reminiscent of Ronnie Corbett at times. Nevertheless, as the show progressed, the tone got darker, until the audience realised that something very disturbing was going on. Both actors played their roles very well, having the confidence needed to take their time with emotions and motives ranging from desperation to dread to deceit. The play culminates in a perturbing ending which is as unsettling as it is ambiguous. The audience is, in essence, asked to make the choice for themselves. We leave, as we entered, to the sound of the ticking clock.
Excellent Choice was billed as half an hour long, but I think it ran slightly longer than that, as I was not aware of it starting significantly later than its 6pm starting time, and it didn’t finish until 6.45 – which was a good thing. Prospective audiences should be aware that there are a couple of items which may cause offence to some (I won’t detail them for fear of spoiling the plot – but they did cause a slightly sour note), and which perhaps could be toned down without causing any reduction in the effectiveness of the piece. That said, I am glad I made the choice to see this startling and original play.
23 – 26 February 2012. More information at www.thevaultfestival.com.
Photograph by Natalie Lindiwe Jones