While the play is an interesting examination of being confused about sexuality and identity, it feels as though its neat conclusion doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the story.
There is no doubting that Ashley Milne’s new play has a quirky charm about it to explore sexuality and journey to acceptance of who you really are. It is a play that does effectively take you on the central character’s journey of how her interactions with the imaginary Edward Cullen help (as well as hinder) to face up to the reality of her life and her feelings of loneliness and confusion – complete with some moments of biting humour that make an impact. However, it does feel as though towards the end, everything is tied up just a little too neatly.
Untitled Sparkly Vampire Play evolves around Izzy, a confused twenty year old who clings to her love of the Twilight books and films as a means of escaping the world around her and to hide her increasing feelings towards her friend Esther. She interacts with the imaginary Edward (who appears at awkward times and who also looks remarkably like her friend Esther) and the lines between these interactions between Edward and Esther become increasingly blurred – highlighting the dangerous nature of fixating on fantasy instead of reality.
As someone who appreciated the Twilight books, I appreciated the playfulness of the humour that almost seems to gently mock the books that have the audience laughing along nicely – particularly moments in which the imaginary Edward begins to think he is gay. But this is also balanced nicely with capturing just how confused Izzy is about her sexuality, leading her to push away Esther and work colleague Mason (although if I’m being honest I feel as though this character was massively underused) through cruel words that are painful to watch. The play develops nicely at a nice pace – but there are moments in which I thought what is this scene’s purpose – for example the scenes with Mason at work, while giving Izzy a sense of reality among the fantasy just didn’t seem to flow as naturally in amongst the other scenes. Would it have worked better as a two hander to focus on Izzy and Esther and their relationship?
Directed by Jessy Roberts, the production is simple and perhaps slightly over reliant on Izzy relating things through the help of a microphone – yes in early scenes when she is addressing the imaginary book club it works perfectly, adding a feeling of intimacy and a sense of a confessional to proceedings – but as the story develops it feels as though it is less required to make a point. despite this, though I did enjoy the way in which Roberts was able to make the most of the darkness and lightness of the story to strong effect, dawing out each side of Izzy’s story perfectly with the help of striking lighting and the minimalistic use of props.
The cast themselves work well together to bring this story to life. Amelia Paltridge as Izzy captures the character’s sense of complexity with seeming ease that ensures the audience is thoroughly engaged with how her journey unfolds. It is not easy, particularly when Izzy is cruel to those around her, to ensure that the audience is still somewhat sympathetic – but Paltridge manages to deliver that. She also has a lovely rapport with Kate Crisp as Esther and Edward – their chemistry proving very engaging to witness, with Crisp really embracing both characters to sometimes hilarious effect. It is a real shame that Caidraic Heffernan as Mason is underused as he has a real spark about him that makes him a joy to watch.
Overall, while I did enjoy Untitled Sparkly Vampire Play I did leave feeling as thought there was still so much to be explored and it was tied up just a little too neatly. But with further work and development it could sparkle even more.
By Emma Clarendon
Untitled Sparkly Vampire Play continues to play at the Omnibus Theatre until the 21st May.