Victory at Theatre503
Exploring the macabre trope of the long-undiscovered corpse in a terse and emotional one-act play set in a single room, writer Madicken Malm’s first full-length work is brought to the suitably claustrophobic confines of Theatre503 by fledgling company the Nightingale Collective.
From the outset, a heady atmosphere of forlorn sombreness is established by Claire Petzal, who provides a live score on cello from the corner of the stage. The sweeping crescendos and staccato stabs form a fittingly funereal soundtrack as Matthew (Samuel Lawrence) and Lorna (Jenny Wills) set about uncovering the truth behind the untimely death of Victory (Aspen Reiss). Smart staging presents a bold metaphor for their undertaking as, throughout the one-hour running time, the cast systematically sweep away from the floor the thick layer of dirt and detritus that has gathered in the months Victory’s body has lain forgotten. The drama switches fluidly between the present and Matthew’s fevered flashbacks, with each plane literally haunted by Reis’ impressive portrayal of a spirit consumed (in both life and death) by the despair wrought through creeping domestic tragedy.
As much as the unrelentingly bleak tone suits the subject matter, at times it forms something of a barrier, restricting empathetic connection with the characters and the world they inhabit. Vignettes’ intention to convey the depth and complexity of Victory and Matthew’s relationship is too fleeting to totally support their far more frequent frustrated and antagonised interactions. More respite from dialogue pitched at the level of their exasperated arguments would have been welcome.
The story too would perhaps benefit from a little more range and intricacy. Via the promotional blurb and the stylishly choreographed opening (with its neat initial reveal of Victory’s earthbound spirit) the audience is lead to anticipate an element of mystery that’s never truly realised. While seemingly played like a shock twist, the final reveal is actually the most likely solution to the play’s puzzle; it is telegraphed too early and obviously to be a surprise. That said, the sense of helpless inevitability to the conclusion is in keeping with the piece’s powerful – and undeniably affecting – sadness. As if the mournful score has been played on the strings of the heart as well as the cello, this resonant sorrow leaves Victory lingering in the mind well after the lights have come up.
Photos: Mathew Foster
Victory is on at Theatre503 until 22nd August 2015, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch a teaser for Victory here: