By Lee Farley
Vamos Theatre are a Worcester-based full mask theatre company who have been creating work and touring for the past 8 years. If you haven?t seen them, you should go and investigate their work. Finding Joy played to a large, appreciative audience on Friday night at Malvern community venue, the Cube.
Vamos are terrific at detail; the performance opens with tantalising glimpses of tea, perfume, stockings. We?re invited to peek into another world. The company are also terrific at “finding the game” – moments play out gleefully with tricks and tactics, balloons, plastic bags, shoes and rolled-up cigarettes become fun sports for the characters.
This is often enormous fun to watch, but I found the evening short on substance. Finding Joy hints at complex questions; after taking mind-altering drugs, do Danny and his friends feel similarly to how Joy feels in her 84th year? Is society better equipped to understand how the mind works in the young rather than the old? Do our busy lives prevent us from listening to and appreciating our families?
Disappointingly, Finding Joy ends up offering a more obvious and superficial entertainment, using farce, comedy and sentimentality as theatrical tools, rather than politics, sociology or investigation. It?s charming, but lacks depth.
Without dialogue Finding Joy relies heavily on music to create atmosphere and narrative. There is an almost permanent soundtrack which often became repetitive and difficult to listen to; not being a noted fan of French vaudeville accordion music, I found some scenes hard to focus on – the slapstick hospital scene, for example.
The four actors deserve huge credit for developing empathy for the main characters. Their mask work is technically excellent (it?s all about the hands, whether or not you use Colgate as handcream) and their instincts and energies bring clarity and animation to the production.
I would be fascinated to see this innovative, creative company tackle narrative in a more analytical fashion and to use their undoubted theatrical instincts to challenge and provoke their audience. I very much look forward to seeing what they do next.