Review by Sam Waite:
Having an alter ego, or simply imagining yourself as someone else, is a time-honoured way to find the confidence you yourself struggle with or to feel more welcome or accepted amongst those you see as fitting in more easily. In And We’ll Catch Stardust, Yes We Will, appearing at the Vault Festival as a work in progress, these personas are presented as their own entities who inhabit the bodies and minds of struggling people, trying on different people until they find the person to whom they “belong”.
In the early 1960s, newly 18-year-olds Kat (Orla O’Sullivan) and Emily (Anna Fordham) pose a significant question, “How do we know if we're best friends or girlfriends?” Neither can answer, and disagreements in the build-up to their leaving – Emily for music school and Kat for a secretarial course – their confusion and differences combine to leave them questioning if and when they’ll see each other again. The best part of a decade later, they find themselves together in the attic again at a party for the 1969 moon landing.
Both actors give strong performances as the would-be couple, the years of growing attachment clear from the outset in their mannerisms and tones towards one another. When the supernatural element, the visit from a star which allows the aforementioned personas to visit human bodies, introduces itself, O’Sullivan is tasked with channelling Ziggy Stardust and Fordham as embodying Marilyn Monroe. This is where cracks in the current presentation begin to show, and some confusion creeps into the work.
The script, by producer Alex Critoph, is most engaging when it deals with its genuinely human characters and offers up a simple, conflicted romance. Where Ziggy and Marilyn are the focus, the mind tends to wander in an effort to work out how literal what you're watching is intended to be – have these entities inhabited their bodies, or are they simply playing pretend in an effort to recapture their tentative, yearning youth?
Leah Fogo’s direction and the seamless transitions of the two actors help to clarify who each performer is portraying in that moment – O’Sullivan moves further into Monroe’s whispering lilt as the story progresses. Fogo also uses moments where the two characters are watching the night sky staged with their fingers pointed squarely past the audience, helping to give a sense of grandeur and size to the Cage’s black-box space. Likewise, the team have littered the stage with mismatched articles to immediately invoke the idea of an attic left unused except by these two girls.
While the piece can sometimes feel like the combination of two disparate ideas, the strength and assurance of the performances and the genuine moments of heart when it's just those two scared, confused young women sharing the stage made me think that at least one of these ideas has rich potential. With some ironing out of the kinks, both could flourish if given further clarity and an easier to digest shift between the two. And We’ll Catch Stardust is as tough around the edges as its “work in progress” titling suggests, but Kat and Emily are a duo I would be happy to spend more time with in the future.
And We’ll Catch Stardust, Yes We Will returns to the Vault Festival on March 10th .
Tickets can be found here: https://vaultfestival.com/events/and-well-catch-stardust-