Leeds Carriageworks Theatre, Wednesday 4th May, 2016.
Ok, here I go; my first post! Was that an annoying start? I was going for endearingly amateur but if I’ve lost you already, I can only apologise. Please return to your far more engaging activity- probably folding jumpers, avoiding screaming children demanding extra pudding or most likely in this freak weather, grooming a dangerously reluctant and slippery pet. Or some such.
Still here? I thank you. Read on, charitable soul…
So, with four shows behind me, I’ll give Vamos an extended run. I first discovered the phenomenal talent of this full mask theatre company a good few years ago, while working as an usher at my favourite theatre, the Unity Theatre in Liverpool. The production was called ‘Much Ado About Wenlock’ and although I relish the artistry of puppet and masked theatre, I was definitely dubious of a silent, be-masked company promising a great evening of sport-related laughs.
I was, however, more than pleasantly surprised; it took all of three minutes for me to fall head over heels in love with the beauty of a silent (but for perfectly timed musical accompaniment), be-masked company; somehow entirely captivated by entirely fixed expressions, which seemed to play the scene in so many colours. The masks themselves are fantastically done; seaside caricature in style for the most part and amazingly, completely believable as the narrative unfolds. Their incredibly immersive style has since made me a long term fan.
‘Finding Joy’ and ‘Nursing Lives’ cemented my admiration of their ability to convey both humour and heartbreak with simple nuanced movement and clever transitions. Both productions were beautifully sentimental without causing any inveterate eye rolls on my part. The cross-cutting is an element of their shows that I am particularly enamoured of and, not to jump ahead of myself, I think ‘The Best Thing’ used this most effectively compared with the other productions that I have seen. Slowly building the picture of these lives and how they intertwined was heavily reliant on this cross-cutting and I would be sad to see Vamos move away from this trope.
On to ‘The Best Thing’ then, which I saw with another theatre fan this Wednesday (on a work night no less…ooooh!). I raved all the way to the lovely Leeds Carriageworks and forgot to mention the lack of dialogue…until the curtain went up…oops. I needn’t have worried; Vamos yet again conquered with a supremely energetic, fun and ‘swinging’ production. Yes, of course, this was not just a simple comedy which begged for the entire audience to join Lulu in her rendition of ‘Shout’ as it blasted out. It was again a clever construction, delicately balancing humour with true tragedy. Highlights were the increase in the playful timed musical sequences; the typing pool being a particular gem and that clever trickery of ‘no! Surely she didn’t? How heartless.’ I’m glad she didn’t. We had, thanks to Vamos, whole-heartedly invested in her story after all.
Trust me on this, if you see a Vamos production coming your way, go and see it; it’s not a decision you will regret. You will not only find a new company to enjoy, but I guarantee an increase in your enthusiasm for theatre as a whole. No, really! If you want to laugh/ cry/ think/ enjoy/ tap your toes/be impressed, Vamos to the production closest to you.
Until next time (hopefully…I mean, if you’ve managed to get this far, you should come back some time, even if it’s your charitable act for the day…and definitely if you want to read more about the fab theatre currently touring or in residence)…