Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Killing It @ The Vaults

Killing It @ The Vaults

There's a mystery at the heart of Killing It - written by Josephine Starte - that remains unsolved by the play's end. That may seem frustrating, but it puts the audience right in the position of its three characters mourning the loss of a young man lost at sea. It's their desire for closure that propels the drama as they deal with their grief; the intimacy and tension in Starte's script is palpable.

It doesn't quite begin that way though. Following three interlinking stories - the man's girlfriend, mother and grandmother - it feels fragmented, reflecting their now fragmented lives. Characters interrupt one another, nothing quite flows. Death haunts these characters, but initially no one seems overly upset about it.

There's plenty of macabre humour here, mainly centered on girlfriend Molly (also played by Starte). Her method of coping is to create a stand-up show based on her feelings. Here Starte's writing shines with raw and relatable comedy and an almost Fleabag-esque delivery - it's this plotline that ties the piece together and makes you wish to watch a full set of stand-up. The other fragments feel underdeveloped by comparison.

Yet slowly Killing It creeps up on you, like the subtle drips and sloshes in Julian Starr's sound design. All the props are situated in water-filled containers around the stage: water, here symbolic of death, soaks everything, droplets of memory splashing on to the stage. The real triumph of the piece is its relationships between three women of different generations - the relationship between Molly and grandmother Margot (Janet Henfrey) is amusingly quirky yet surprisingly tender in the end.

That goes for Killing It as a whole. What begins as an offbeat dark comedy catches you by surprise with its heartfelt conclusion.


Watch: Killing It is performed at The Vaults Festival on 25th and 26th February.

Killing It @ The Vaults
Photo: Toby Parker Rees

Monday, 10 February 2020

Carly Rae Jepsen @ Brixton Academy

Carly Rae Jepsen @ Brixton Academy

Squeaky, bubblegum pop. A tiny popstar with an unremarkable voice. Hordes of gay fans.

No, it's not a Kylie Minogue gig. It's Carly Rae Jepsen, the gay man's current popstar of choice. Call Me Maybe may have been a worldwide hit, but Jepsen has since remained something of a cult favourite, delivering underrated pop albums and becoming the queen of memes.

At a live gig, though, you'd be forgiven for thinking she's the biggest star on the planet, such is the devotion of her fans. Every song is known by the mere intro, every lyric chanted back, every moment met with a scream.

It's Jepsen's ordinariness that makes her so appealing. Hers are frothy songs about love and relationships, never too deep, just on the right side of emotional, her simple lyrics easy to relate to. Each is anchored to an undeniable hook, ensuring they're all memorable. There's no weak link; every song is a banger.

Perhaps that's best demonstrated by the cutesy I Really Like You and its repeated chorus lyric that bubbles with the excitement of lust. Or the fizzy rush of love in Run Away With Me. Or sex jam Want You In My Room. Or cheeky breakup anthem Store. Every stage of a relationship is covered.

Regardless of your favourite, Jepsen never takes herself too seriously in her songs. And that tongue in cheek tone translates to her onstage persona as she bounds across the stage full of zeal. Her joy is as infectious as her melodies.

The setlist is some 24 songs long, racing through each three minute track in a relentless, vibrant confection, rarely pausing for breath. There's little chat or banter, no set dressing, no extravagance. It's just earworm after earworm after earworm...

And it's the music we're here for, Jepsen merely a conduit of its power. You could argue it's all lowest common denominator pop, as frivolous as it is flirty fun, relatable to the point of being basic. Yet, like the best pop, it's pure escapism, its energy lifting the heart and soul.

Case in point: Cut To The Feeling comes on, the confetti cannons burst and for three joyous minutes everything is right with the world.