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Theatre Review: Leave a Message @ Vault Festival


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On a normal evening at a normal party two people met, actor Ed Coleman and writer James Mitchell.

The two young men got to talking, and Ed told the stranger about the recent loss of his father and, as creatives do when they meet in high spirits, they decided to create something of this story. What differentiates this party conversation from many others is the fact that they actually made it happen.

Image courtesy of Chloé Nelkin Consulting

Directed by Jessica Roe, this is a story about loss and the complex relationship between a man and his alcoholic father. It is a story about friendship, letting go, and what you can find on an answering machine.

Sarah Mercade has created a set resembling a neglected apartment, with an old purple couch, letters everywhere, bottles and cans all over the floor. It clearly giving you an idea of the person who lived there’s lack of ability to take care of his surroundings, and himself.

The play starts with Ed (Ed Coleman) standing in the ruin of an apartment, looking around with no idea where to start. As his friend Sarah (Gabrielle Fernie) arrives, she starts helping Ed go through the remains of his father’s belongings with a humoristic efficiency. When Sarah leaves to go buy cleaning products, Ed checks his father’s answering machine, and an unexpected message from an unknown female sex-worker changes the course of the day, as Ed arranges a meeting with the stranger.

Hayley-Marie Axe plays the woman on the answering machine, Linda, who turns out to be very different than we expect.

When you hear the storyline of this play, you don’t expect it to be funny - surprisingly, the writing and the dialogue are so sharp and amusing that the audience is left laughing most of the time, and only in the breaks between laughing, mostly when Ed is left alone on stage, are you reminded of how gloomy the situation really is.

Ed Coleman delivers a strong performance in this written version of his own story, and his pain of never feeling he knew his father, and his fear of ending up the same way, is so subtle and underlying all the way through that the moment it is said out loud really resonates.

Gabrielle Fernie is charming and funny in her role as Sarah, and her spot on comedic timing is really what lifts the gloom from the situation. At times it would have supported the story if she allowed the tense situation and her concern for her friend to show more, as this would have been a good contrast to her fast-paced humour.

James Mitchell has taken Ed Coleman’s story and created a very strong script. It is a well written story, that shows how fear of ending up like a parent and social inheritance can end up pushing us in the direction we don’t want to go. 

Leave a message will be transferred to the Gilded Balloon for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 3rd-26th of August, and if you are going to the Fringe I highly recommend you see it. The show was stated as part of the VAULT Festival in London, which is running until 17th March.

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