Review: ★★ NOTCH, VAULT Festival

Review: ★★ NOTCH, VAULT Festival

Based upon actor and writer Danja Wass’ own experiences of being an immigrant, Notch tells the topical tale of a homeless Croatian woman, only known as AA, trying to get by in the city of Dublin. Touching on issues around the history of the UK and the Slavic people, homelessness, xenophobia, sexuality and mental health: we experience this one woman’s journey fighting for survival in a Brexit, poverty stricken Britain.

Due to the subject matter, Notch should be a hard hitting and captivating watch; but instead Wass’ writing is disjointed and confusing. Trying to follow the non-linear narrative, that is not wholly based in reality, is a struggle throughout. Wass and director, Madelaine Moore, choosing for AA to differentiate between a British accent (when it is her internal thoughts) and her mother accent (when talking to other characters) further adds to the confusion. Losing her accent also takes away from the impact of her identity; which uncover mostly through her inner monologues.

Likewise, the staging by Moore is well executed, but unfortunately it doesn’t help string together the narrative. Evelyn Lockley is mesmerising through her filmed performance as Margaret, and Moore cleverly splices her performance into subliminal messaging, against films of Wass’ facial distortion and the news snippets. Still, as much as this is visually clever, it augments the dissonance.

What is troubling, though, is where Margaret fits into the narrative. AA seemingly sexually assaults Margaret, and it is unclear as to whether this is in a dream or in reality. Either way, it could be triggering for some and is jarring with the more prevalent points; the state of homelessness and xenophobia.

There are glimpses of emotive moments, as AA tries to commit suicide and outpours her mental health struggles. However, these are cluttered and distorted: Wass tries to pack too much in, meaning the pace feels uneven and these promising glimpses are overcrowded by the perplexing ones.

The points Wass and Moore are attempting to make are extremely valid; shown by having the contact details of the Samaritans and Crisis UK on their leaflet. Unfortunately, the structure and flow of the writing needs refining to centralise its message.

Niamh Flynn

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