We are living in an era where we are constantly being monitored and tracked by the Government. ‘In the Vice Like Grip Of It’ aims to explore this theme - it’s an interesting topic, however it is poorly executed in this play.

The highlight of this show is the lighting and sound. From the very beginning upon entering the theatre we are greeted with dismantled furniture and white noise, creating an eerie feeling. The characters then emerge from the set, which is cleverly done and looks set to be a promising piece.

As the show begins we see Him (Leigh Kelly) and Her (Jo Tyabji) moving into a new home, unpacking boxes and putting everything in a place. However, the setup takes far too long, which isn’t very exciting from the audience’s perspective.

The piece soon takes a sinister twist. When Him leaves the stage we can see that he is still visibly watching Her. While she is alone she sings and dances to her favourite songs. Her doesn’t know that she is being watched, however it came across that Tyabji was very conscious she was being watched by the audience, as it appeared she was embarrassed to be singing and dancing. This could have been nerves, however it looked a bit awkward.

One of the major issues with this piece is that it lacks pace. There are countless conversations between Him and Her which don’t add anything to the show as a whole. At one point they are sitting on the sofa reading a newspaper for what seems like 10 minutes. It just seems like the writer was looking to fill time.

There are some great physical theatre moments in this show. A personal highlight was when the characters were put in fast forward mode. Through a use of clever lighting and good choreography, it came across as very genuine and unique. A couple of times throughout the play the furniture is moved because the couple don’t like being watched through the window. Although this is an integral part of the show, it became distracting, especially when they had the furniture facing away from the audience.

Her reveals her inner thoughts through a monologue while doing movement holding a laptop. I got the impression that this was supposed to represent that she had typed this on the laptop. However this was a major distraction here, as this was an important part of the play. However, I was constantly fearing that she was going to drop the laptop.

We get the sense that Her is constantly being watched through webcams that project her face onto the white furniture. This was nicely done, however it could be tidied up a little as Her movements on stage were supposed to be in time with the video - some of them were a bit out of sync.

During the entire show there is a constant ringing that increases in volume. While this does reinforce the idea that they are being watched. However, it became a bit annoying as the show dragged on - a bit like your neighbour’s alarm was going off for ages.

Towards the end of the show the relationship between Him and Her reaches breaking point. There is a very tense scene that’s difficult to watch due to its abusive nature. This is when we clearly see that Him is representing the state and Her the citizens. However, it all happens a bit too late.

Overall I felt very confused by this piece and what it was trying to get across. The topic certainly has potential but I would recommend a revisit the script and try to make it exciting from an audience perspective.

Reviewer: Brian Madden

Reviewed: 26th February 2016