The Vaults Festival: Blue Departed

We made our way to The Vaults Festival 2019 to see the Blue Departed. Claire gives her take on this intense tale of addiction and love.

The Cog team, at the entrance to The Vaults.

The Cog team, at the entrance to The Vaults.

Spending a wet and cold January evening watching a performance centred around the gruesome horrors of drug addiction isn’t everyone’s ideal entertainment choice. But the Cog team did exactly that this month.

Blue Departed by the Anima Theatre Company is one of the 400+ shows at the 2019 Vaults Festival. The selection is a little overwhelming.

The Cog team, heading to Waterloo.

As we set out to the festival I realised I didn’t have much knowledge on what the play was about. However there was something quite refreshing in having read no reviews or summaries. I had no preconceptions of what we were about to watch.

Once we arrived at The Vaults I was reminded at how trendy the venue is. The dimly lit labyrinth of tunnels, graffiti and layers of ripped posters feels more Shoreditch rave than Waterloo train station. The tunnels were packed full of people and the venue had a buzzing atmosphere.

Alex, Emily R and Em, waiting for the ‘fun’ to begin.

We waited for the performance to begin in a small dark room. The trains above echoed and the smell of damp took your breath away. It was eerie and it felt as though we were about to take part in a horror movie. The performance dived into a dialogue from a man called Dante who went for a walk and had his hand bitten by a dog. It was quite disconcerting. For a while I did wonder if we had made the wrong selection for our Cog Night.

But as time passed, and the damp smell and the noise faded to the back of my mind, the story hooked me.

A couple, deeply in love, are consumed by drug addiction. When Dante comes home to find Beatrice laying on the floor he fails to report her death. As the story unravels we realise that she has overdosed. When his brother arrives at his flat and starts to gag we become aware that her body has been there for quite some time. He is shocked at what he has found and desperately tries to ground Dante in reality.

Dante tries to keep Beatrice alive for as long as possible which is maybe why he didn’t report her death. Throughout the play he has flashbacks and hallucinations of her speaking to him. These reveal happier times, how they met and their struggle with addiction. The performance is far from a glamorous depiction of recreational drug abuse, instead, it’s a bold realistic portrayal of how it transforms personalities and lives.

The minimal stage and props, bathed in blue light.

Although the narrative seems incredibly dark there were humorous moments and many touching moments. I was particularly impressed by the script. It was almost like poetry. The three person cast are absolutely amazing at bringing the script to life and make you feel compelled to watch more. Lighting and sound effects really enhance the atmosphere and contribute to the scene-setting, despite the minimal props and set.

The only fault (if you could call it a fault) was the ending. Personally I like a story to have a neat finish; I felt I needed more closure. However I’m sure this wouldn’t bother many people.

In all I really enjoyed our outing to the Vault Festival. In fact I’m not sure why I’ve never been to the festival before. I will definitely be back and with 400+ shows I’m sure I will be able to find something else to appeal to me. Perhaps something a little lighter in tone, next time.

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