BWW Review: THE FUTURE IS MENTAL, VAULT Festival
This year, Network Theatre Company take their audience to an unspecified futuristic time with The Future is Mental, an anthology of six short plays that are heavily recalling of Black Mirror. Written and directed by Rosie de Vekey, the pieces are smart and precise, and don't conceal their external inspiration.
Decluttering sees a dark Marie Kondo helping a wife (Suzy de Lezameta, who gives a heartbreaking performance) escape her depressive state in an unusual (but totally justified) way, while the others seem to come straight out of Netflix's organisation consultant's aforementioned sci-fi sibling, with the first story directly addressing Bandersnatch. While the references are quite on the nose, de Vekey's writing stands the comparison very well. She is eloquent and compelling in the scenarios she depicts, while her direction is paced and works hand in hand with the script.
Best Possible Candidate turns the selection of the new PM into a years-long game where everyone can win. It opens and closes the series of plays, and the choice of having it run between the single "episodes" too is a clever device that drags the room out of their suspension of disbelief and blurs the lines between fiction and reality. Themes like depression, emotional abuse, and domestic violence (all in Decluttering) coexist with an evil Alexa (played perfectly by Lio Lylark - her cadence and tone are truly hair-raising) who listens to everything and has the power to ruin our lives.
Mental health makes a sideways appearance in Mood Lighting too: after the King of England suggests all citizens should drop their stiff upper lip and wear small lights that give away their true emotions, Alice (Honor Palmer-Tomkinson) needs to finds a way to regain her happiness, or at least for her light to shine as such. The Other Side deals with reality television, fame, and the marketisation of all aspects of their lives, including death.
Before Matthew Gill (who's nailed his role as Facilitator) announces that we have finally found our new Prime Minister calling upon a random member of the public, Three Score and Ten concludes the collection. A Speaker (Emma Byrne, rigorous and stone-cold in her portrayal) is announcing the proposal for a policy that essentially support the decimation of all males above 70 years old. Her line of thought is extremely convincing as she puts an expiration date on the life of men that the result is particularly chilling.
The Future is Mental ends up being a strong assemblage of cautionary tales on a number of perils that are out of the control of the masses. De Vekey brings up valid points and explores her themes just enough to titillate curiosity and start a conversation on the future of society.