BWW Review: ALICE, VAULT Festival
Actor and writer Emily Renée pens a story about family love, coincidences, immigration, and all the elements that, combined, build an identity. Alice is directed by Tamar Saphra, whose contribution is slightly mercurial throughout but turns out to be effective in the long run.
Renée is observer, narrator, and protagonist of the mundane yet endearing and heartwarming plot. She details how a family is born, from the depths of ex USSR countries to London, describing backgrounds and homesickness in vivid colours. A casual meeting in the UK for two expats moulds into a life of devotion and financial strain, saved by the unconditional love for their child Alice.
An existence of setbacks and what-could-have-been shapes their paths, with Renée isolating the need to create a unique and uncompromising wholeness that's distinct from - but defined by - their motherland. The slight insecurity and isolation is transferred from parents to daughter, with the actress adopting yet another physicality and delivering a well-rounded portrayal altogether.
Electing a thin traverse makes sense in terms of intimacy and movement, but the choice of having her sitting down for the initial timelines impairs the visuals. This has a peculiar effect: on one hand, it's frustrating for the audience because it's impossible for everyone to see her whilst on the bench; on the other, it unfocuses the tale and puts their personal histories in perspective.
Writing and direction (with Tamykha Patterson's lighting design aiding in this) make it clear that we're seeing singular, subjective experiences that have universal resonance. This is accomplished well with the single actor swinging the narration between telling the story from an outsider's point of view and being in the middle of the action.
By the end, Alice is like a blurry photograph of migration. Heritage and background become crucial in the creation of a person, and the effects of eradicating lives out of need or else is somehow passed on through generations. Renée writes a powerful show and offers an engrossing performance.