VOiD opens, quite subversively, with a protagonist who doesn’t know where to begin. Ali (Eastenders‘ Sophia Capasso) sits on a chair in the darkness, her face lit up by her phone as she explains that she is overwhelmed with social media messages. Its tone is immediately eery and fierce, an unnerved Ali questioning our perception of her narrative as it unfolds. Although it can’t be helped given the play’s staging under London’s Waterloo station, the pounding of trains which bleed through the walls of The Vaults only adds to the one-woman show’s fizzling intensity.
Stuttering and uncertain before delivering rapid, fast-paced dialogue, Capasso is expressive and physical. When words fail to convey Ali’s feelings, intricate gesticulations – seen, for example, in a description of the “clammy” environment of a nightclub – are cleverly supported by harsh, coloured lighting, conjuring up emotions and environments from so little.
Initially remarking on the overwhelming nature of social media and with the promotional poster of an outstretched hand and a mobile phone, there was, at first, a sense that VOiD would examine our connection and obsession with the online world. Instead, we follow Ali as she goes through institutions, trying to make sense of a situation she may or may not have played a part in. Mental health elements of the play, including Ali’s frustration with medication and therapy, are delicately handled, but for a production billed as one which leaves viewers “questioning the meaning of sanity”, I drew a different meaning from the show entirely.
Note that it didn’t make the production any less intriguing or gripping, but as we find out more about what happened to Ali scene-by-scene, the mystery is more compelling than the exploration of her psyche – especially with the narrative sounding as if it is told in reverse, with the full picture surfacing at the end of the hour and coming full circle in terms of its staging.
“When a hero slays the beast, that just makes them the monster,” Ali proclaims in a conclusion which shifts perspectives, examines justice and prompts a reconsideration of everything that happened in the build-up to the play’s climax. Performed with urgency and restlessness from Capasso, VOiD presents as more of a sharp scrutiny of reasoning than sanity, but is there much difference between the two?
VOiD is now playing at VAULT Festival until 2 February.
Disclaimer: I saw VOiD for free in exchange for a review as someone who is currently a part of VAULT Festival’s Emerging Critics scheme. I did not receive any payment for my involvement in the scheme or for this review, and all opinions stated above are honest and my own.