Thirsty - Vault Festival - Review
London is big, it is bold, it is in your face; it surrounds you with noise and hits you full force. The theatre world that calls London home can be just as big, can be just as bold and can be just as loud, but not always. Like the night plunging the city back into winter weather after a sunny day, some shows sneak up on you, catch you unaware with their different style of approach, delving deeper and presenting you with the unexpected.
Vault Festival, London’s smaller but just as inviting and inclusive answer to the famous Edinburgh Fringe, sends arts lovers into the iconic graffiti tunnel underneath Waterloo Station where countless productions are taking place, bright new ideas and boundary pushing shows that venture down avenues that are much less explored.
‘Thirsty’, written by Stephanie Martin and produced by Bruised Sky Productions, is a brave and brutally honest exploration of bisexuality against the backdrop of being 30-something, the internal battle of decision making. Sara, played brilliantly by Louise Beresford, is newly single, reeling from the painful break up of her first queer relationship. That relationship taught her a lot, opened her eyes to her own sexuality and how she embraced it, but now it’s over, she’s not quite sure how to move on.
Sara’s friends Alice (Anna Spearpoint) and Jen (Greer Dale Foulkes) think they know where they fit in the world. Alice is out there living her life to fullest, enjoying the dating world, yoga classes and everything in between. Jen thinks she has the right idea, doing what is expected of her as a women in her 30’s, the whole marriage and baby thing. But where does bi-sexual Sara fit into this? What does society expect of her? She doesn’t have the answers, and this play explores the ups and the downs as she tries to find her place, tries to explain who she is to those around her and ultimately understand herself.
On stage for the entire hour running time, it is Louise Beresford’s performance as Sara that draws you in. You see everything through her eyes and through regular breaks of the fourth wall as she tries to come to terms with her break up, negotiates dates of varying success levels, and tries to get her friends and families to understand how she is feeling. Beresford gives a commanding performance, portraying the character of Sara with a brutal honesty and the kind of openness that you don’t often see when the subjects of sexuality, sex and kink are addressed. Sara isn’t afraid to say it how it is and that makes the character all the more relatable. These are the kind of stories that need to be told.
Anna Spearpoint and Greer Dale Foulkes, alongside Rosanna Suppa play multiple characters throughout, from dates that Sara crosses paths with, to her mother who struggles to understand her daughter’s sexuality, to her domineering boss that is more interested in her looks than her attempts to progress her career. Through everything, we see Sara face issues that anyone could face including the balance of doing what one wants compared to what they think they should be doing. The themes of anxiety, motherhood and friendship are handled with sensitivity throughout.
The direction by Scott Le Cress is inventive and effective, keeping the set simple with just a few coloured chairs and portraying sex as a series of games. A lot is left to the imagination of the audience, with the simplicity of the staging allowing everyone to focus solely on the storytelling.
To conclude, ‘Thirsty’ is a brave and important piece of theatre that openly explores what some may call touchy subjects. There is a high level of relatability and a masterful mix of serious moments and comedy that illustrate the struggles of finding out where you fit in the world and who you want to be. I can only hope that there is life for this show beyond the vault festival, as this is a show that more people need to be able to see.