V+15, a new play by Nevertheless Theatre Company, has some promising elements and touches on a selection of intriguing ideas. But in its current production, the piece unfortunately didn’t feel as gripping as political dystopian thrillers ought to be.
V+15 centres on Alina (Sarita Plowman) and Vincent (Gianbruno Spena). Alina is a writer and a rebel, belonging to an underground collective called V+15. The V+15 network are trying to overthrow the oppressive regime that they currently live under. She’s reached out Vincent, a writer and broadcaster, who she hopes will support the rebel movement. Although Vincent has disappeared from public life for two years, to Alina’s surprise, he’s accepted her request to meet in private.
The best political dystopian thrillers arguably offer you a gateway into a paradoxical world governed by rules and ideas that stand in contrast to the reality that you have become comfortable with. By the end, you should feel uneasy and be forced to re-evaluate the freedoms you may have taken for granted. I don’t doubt that the creative team intended to create this, but it’s hard to say that this was successfully delivered.
The first 20 minutes of the piece seeks to establish the show’s main premise. After this, the plot didn’t satisfyingly progress much from there and it felt fairly stagnant at times. Part way through there is an unexpected turn. But for most of the show’s hour running time, the characters make arguments that aren’t particularly original and unfortunately it felt quite flat overall.
The thing that is perhaps lacking, is that the play never quite fully establishes the extent of oppression and suffering created as a result of the current regime. We hear that whilst Alina worked as a nurse, she had treated women who had been abused. However not many details about the scale and rationale behind the torture is given. There are also other moments which touch on censorship, such as that Alina has to hide a hard copy of her book. The success of a dystopian thriller arguably hinges on feeling that potent sense of threat and as V+15 never fully creates this, it was difficult to feel completely immersed.
The best moments were saved for the play’s final scenes where the pair start discussing whether a rebel movement can topple institutions without losing its integrity and values. The very last scene also heightens the degree to which both characters appear to be puppets to a complex and faceless system. But these elements were arguably far too late to rescue the piece as a whole.
V+15 is running at the Vault Festival until 1 March – https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/v15/
Photo Credit: Ali Wright