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Review: CACEROLEO, VAULT Festival

Review: CACEROLEO, VAULT Festival

Rhys Hastings’ debut play exposes the cognitive dissonance between theory and practice when it comes to male violence towards women.

Review: CACEROLEO, VAULT Festival Caceroleo must be the most difficult VAULT production to pin down so far. "Is it a play? Is it a film?" Daniel York Loh asks during the extended intro in Rhys Hastings' debut play. A quick Google search says the title refers to a protest involving making noise with household objects. So, kind of what Britain did during lockdown instead of vowing not to vote Tory at the next elections - but without the protest bit.

The show opens with the definition of the word "discontinuity" and follows with a long video footage of York Loh leading a drama class, or a rehearsal session. The importance of its being a safe space is introduced, but Hastings goes on to tear it down, exposing the cognitive dissonance between theory and practice when it comes to male violence towards women.

What unfolds is the account of a family ruled by domestic abuse and the subsequent guilt associated with it (although the self-professed unreliability of the narrator questions the source constantly). Hastings explores the damage of the normalisation of violence and our desensitisation to it, juxtaposing the simulated acts of stage combat and his character's lived experience. He also offers the heartbreaking tale of growing up with a violent father and religious trauma.

International rising star Nastazja Domaradzka directs a disorientating and disruptive piece that challenges the nature of theatre itself. She toys with forms and structures, taking the audience on a necessarily distressing trip. Hastings fractures the story, branching out into secondary observations on life itself, a victim's delusions and the unbreakable cycles of cruelty. Trauma is said to shape an artist, but to what extent is this healthy and what are the risks of its mishandling?

Domaradzka is precise in her muddling of genres in order to create something that stretches the boundaries of the craft. Caceroleo is ultimately closer to what British theatre now defines "European", staging carefully curated chaos that mirrors reality. Hastings' writing is a gorgeous collection of styles that finds a home in the direction.

Haunting repetition gives way to excerpts more similar to slam poetry than prose; dark humour is as removed from its descriptive attribute as it's allowed to be; vivid descriptions of formative events and nightmarish portions are haunted by Jovana Backovic's forcibly intruding sound design.

Although the pace and narrative justify it to a degree, if there's one fault to find in the play is that it's a tad too long. Hastings' intoxicating charisma and wordplay carry the production, but it's easy to see how the script alone could go either way if misdirected. It's rare to meet successfully experimental theatre these days. Caceroleo won't be for everybody, but its message surely is.

Caceroleo runs at VAULT Festival until 29 January.

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From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina

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