Having seen Karis Halsall’s part in the ambitious 503Fusions (which she also curated) last month, it was with, I’ll admit, a little trepidation that I entered the aptly named “Cage” space in The Vaults under Waterloo last night for Megolopolitan. Extended from the 15 minutes I saw her perform at Theatre503, this is Halsall’s hour long piece, which pulls together projected images, live and pre-recorded music and sound, spoken word and vignettes, performed by Halsall and her collaborator Samuel Organ. I had thoroughly enjoyed her short piece at 503, but how would it translate to something longer?
Beginning with the piece I saw her perform at 503, Halsall draws us into her character’s psyche – just her and a microphone, and under director Alex Crampton’s steady hand, we are off to an intriguing start. Crampton has her work cut out for her and keeps Halsall together as the audience is whisked through a cacophony of character, landscape and sound. Samuel Organ’s soundscapes are clever and assured, and in this industrial space, his side of the stage with its blinking lights and iMac feel at home. In one section of the piece Organ slowly and complexly develops a musical idea, and we watch Halsall, silent, accepting, in a torrent of rain. Another affecting snapshot of the night is of a mother with a missing child, who finds her way onto Twitter, and discovers the inevitable and infamous trolls that dwell there. As well as an extremely strong Swedish accent, the beauty is that Halsall, in that 10 minutes, throws out everything the audience knows about her as a performer, and starts again. This is an exciting moment at the theatre, when suddenly we‘re forced to re-assess the show we are watching.
All the pieces that make up Megalopolitan paint an elegant and grungy portrait of a city – and all the fear and doubt, loneliness and energy that being part of one allows or enforces on you. Each of these are distinct and separate, constantly requiring the audience to be alert, fluid observers. The difficulty with a show with such distinct parts, is finding the ability to link them together, to draw through a cohesive thread, narrative or theme. In Megalopolitan, every part is so different from the others that the beauty of it is the portrait these tiny pieces paint as a whole. This theatrical pointillism is what makes Halsall’s work so engaging and different – an innovative new voice in the London new writing scene. 4.5/5
Review written by Samuel Clay.
Megalopolitan is currently showing at the VAULT Festival until Sunday 22nd February. For more information on the production, visit here…