VAULT has returned for its 7th year under the arches at Waterloo, bringing with it a mishmash of exciting new theatre. London’s answer to Edinburgh Fringe features many shows that have come down from Edinburgh, ready to take on a new audience. Violet is one such play.
A tale of loneliness and uncertainty, Violet is brimming with emotion. 27-year old Bertie (short for Roberta) is facing a quarter life crisis of sorts- she’s lost her job, broken up with her boyfriend and left without a place to live, forcing her to spend the summer at her cousin’s seaside flat. The story of the millennial having a quarter life crisis is becoming so common, it could almost be a genre in itself. But where Violet stands apart is how it turns this into a musing about age and life, focusing on the beautiful inter-generational friendship that forms between Bertie and the 79-year old ‘bad-ass’ Violet, following a chance encounter on the beach.
The show does get off to a slightly slow start. In some ways, it’s like an extended monologue and protagonist Bertie starts off narrating where she’s at in her life, and the events that have driven her to seek refuge in a quiet seaside town, as well as her encounters with Violet. Bebe Sanders as Bertie is the sole performer, leaving titular character Violet mostly to the audience’s imagination. Although funny and engaging, there isn’t initially a great deal of visual action happening and it feels more like a podcast. But as time goes on and, the small visual details add up it begins to really take shape. Bertie trying her hand at the Lindy Hop with Violet, the crates filled with sand that take up the stage…you can’t help but be drawn in. Words couldn’t really express how perfectly writer and performer Bebe Sanders carries this show. It’s clear that Bertie is very much a voice of her own creation, she’s so at home in this role. Her stage presence captures the causal understated-ness of Bertie, who is both a relatable everywoman and a fully fleshed out character. The rest of the team behind Violet, theatre company Poor Michelle (amusingly named after the most overlooked member of Beyoncé’s former group Destiny’s Child) are equally fantastic. Of special note is sound designer Julian Starr. The music of Violet and the way it intermingles with the sounds of the sea is undeniably one of the best aspects of the performance.
Violet is completely at home at VAULT Festival, in the small intimate space of its venue ‘The Cage’, where, sitting only a few feet from the performer herself, it feels like you’re stepping into this story as it takes place in front of you. And it’s the sort of pared down production, held up so surely by the strength of its writing that fringe theatre is all about. Bebe Sanders is definitely a talent to watch out for and, hopefully this won’t be the last we see of this brilliant little production in London, because there’s no doubt it’s deserving of a greater audience.