Roti stands seem so monotonous in Vines, a never-ending series of the same, robotic movements again and again. It’s the eternal jerk pickled cucumber loop – no wonder her life is going nowhere. Alex Critophs parallels this in the delivery for the most part, a performance that never quite scratches below the surface to convey the inner turmoil underneath.
Alex is an all too typical millennial – a degree, a low-paid job and a future that looks bleak. The promise of the Ayahuasca Ceremony, which involves drinking a powerful hallucinogen extracted from a Peruvian vine, consistently returns to draw her in. She interrupts her monologue at certain points with a trance-like state of dance, fluid movements that flicker between reality and the imagined. It’s a slow reveal, one that never really peaks – the artistic device doesn’t add anything to the overall production. Often far too long, it truncates the story and interrupts the flow.
Nothing of impact really happens in Vines. Alex’s commentary is often one-dimensional and flat, never straying from its intended course. The other characters that pepper her life – the shaman at the ceremony, the feedback reviews that extol the virtues of the vine – are more colourful and Alex inhabits them with more conviction than the protagonist. It’s a fine narrative thread that is frequently lost in these various break-outs, always one example too many at each point.
The little details in Vines add much-needed colour – trying to subtly dispose of Grandma’s Christmas turkey without upsetting Grandma, or the peer pressure to drink and smoke like she used to. They may be small, but they remind us of the person Alex once was, the person she seems to have lost in a quagmire of roti, minimum wage and living below the breadline. Apparently, self-respect costs more than 35p nowadays.
The issue with Vines is that the culmination to the build-up comes too late in the show – the few minutes after her Ayahuascan experience are filled with inspiration, hope and the joy of life. Like the production, these colourful few minutes make the preceding narrative seem bland in comparison. Alex notes her insignificance in the universe; it doesn’t depress her, it enables her to reject the negativity that she has shrouded herself in up until now. It seems as though the vine has a transformative effect indeed, one that should take hold earlier in the show to inject it with some much-needed energy.
Vines plays C Royale until 28 August 2017. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the website.
Follow the link to an interview in Miro Magazine with Vines‘ producer, Jamie Eastlake.