I can proudly join the likes of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Olivia Colman and Rosie Jones in praising Sophie Bentinck’s enthralling play Pauline, which draws upon her late grandmother’s diary entries to become a beautiful commentary on the familial connections which span generations.
As we enter the VAULT space (this is Bentinck’s first show at the festival), we find her sitting on an armchair, writing away in a notebook, mounds of clothing and washing baskets surrounding her a small fruit tree. When she’s seated, she sits on the edge of her seat, as if she is all to eager to share her story with us, and it works. It’s mesmerising.
So too does the aforementioned assortment of props across the set. They may seem unusual at first, but what’s magical with Pauline is how the smallest things run through her family, capturing the wonderful and natural coincidences of life and making them seem like they were meant to happen all along. Grandfather and granddauchter share an experience of cheating on their partners, and
dance moves are passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. The clicking of a pen to cue pre-recorded audio is a lovely touch, and is all the more poignant when we learn her mother is a voice actor and soon encounters tragedy herself.
Even though she isn’t a voice actor herself, Bentinck smoothly switches between different characters through some subtle changes in her voice, from the Received Pronunciation of her grandmother, to the high-pitched excitement of her 12-year-old self and her brooding teenage years.
At the very beginning of this play, we’re told about how the origins of us as people can be found in our grandmothers and those beyond, and it’s this idea of everything being connected which is so poetic and perfectly communicated in this warm, bittersweet tale.
Pauline is now playing at VAULT Festival until 5 March.
Production Images: Sophie Bentinck.
Disclaimer: I was invited to watch ‘Pauline’ for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this article and all opinions stated above are honest and my own.