On the first night I tried to go to Vanity the tiny room was completely full: I couldn’t even see past people hanging around at the door. On the second night I was one of five. This is a very unusual and potentially alienating piece of drama, despite its simple design. A girl and a man are on stage, the man holding a gun to her head. She confesses a series of crimes that become more and more far-fetched. After twenty minutes the ironies behind this act begin to become clear and interesting; during the remaining ten there is a sense that the point has been made. Whether this is its final transformation into a legitimate example of Artaudian Theatre of Cruelty depends upon how much you’ve had to drink and what your motivation is for seeing a show so late in the evening. For me, it just about crossed the line into a successful piece of performance. But it’s close.
There are big problems: lines were forgotten very frequently; although this show is on very late it’s short; and when attention is drawn to the piece’s artifice its intellectual underpinnings are undermined. Hopefully this has been sorted, because there is some intelligent thinking behind this show. The way it plays with duration and repetition helps to evince the discomfort of admitting culpability, although for many it will simply help them eye the door. Asking what it means to be culpable and to admit culpability at all is the directive of this show, and it’s a very stimulating platform from which ideas may emerge. How far does admitting something atone for the action? What does it mean to say the phrase ‘I did this?’ Whilst these questions are never uttered, the text is designed so that they can be extrapolated without any biased input. There is mental work to be done to gain something from Vanity, that’s for sure.
Whilst this show will seem like a waste of time to many, there is something behind its bold theory and experimentation. This is an interesting late-night, unusual piece - but don’t go if you’re not prepared to think.