Review – Pieces of Vincent – Arcola Theatre

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While I was flattered to get a direct invite to a “bloggers’ review night” at the Arcola, unfortunately my experience of David Watson’s new play Pieces of Vincent wasn’t good. I’m going to skip my normal tendency to avoid spoilers and just utterly spill the beans about the plot, so if you haven’t gone yet and want it to be a surprise, you’d better stop reading now (just remember to wear trousers). Okay, have you stopped? You’re willing to read on, knowing that I’m going to give key points away? Right, you’ve been warned.

I found it just incredibly tacky that the title of this show refers to, in my mind, the actual reduction of a person named Vincent (and, as we later see, two people named Vincent) to little bits of meat thanks to bomb-wielding terrorists. This realization, that the whole show in some ways was a set up for a giant, tacky pun, took place during the act in which I mentally checked out from the show, a drawn out, poorly-acted scene in which Vincent’s death is announced to his grandmother. Unfortunately, this act did not mark the end of a show that had worn out its welcome, and an additional thirty of forty minutes of trudging waited.

A little more about the show: Pieces of Vincent is a play set in modern London (and Ireland), done in the currently hip style of numerous small scenes with varied characters that eventually come together due to said tragic explosion. Its set is inventive and the best thing about it, as it’s kind of a reverse black box: we sit in the middle on cushions (be sure you wear trousers), and the show takes place in various scrim-curtained sets on the edge of the square room, with the beginning and transitional scenes projected onto said scrims. My two favourite bits were projections in which 1) we were all the passengers inside a car (the view through all four sides of the moving vehicle appearing around us) and 2) we saw a recorded scene set in the middle of the Millenium bridge, oriented so I could look to my right and see St. Paul’s, to my left the Tate Modern, and in front and behind me the lovely Thames-scape. Aaahhh, London, how I love you!

Meanwhile, in the eight or so scenes, I completely failed to connect to or care about any of the characters (it was too … fragmented, yes, that’s the word), and the acting was just … I don’t know, some of the characters were more like caricatures, and I’d get set up for maybe learning something interesting about someone, and then they were gone for the rest of the play. Sure, a sad event occurred in this play that is very relevant to 7/7 scarred Londoners, and the playwright made the connection to the actions of the IRA decades before, but I found it irritating and just completely not compelling as theatre and spent most of the last half hour of a play with a mere running time of 90 minutes wondering if I could sneak out the door without making a big scene. I’ve seen a lot of good shows at the Arcola in the past, but Pieces of Vincent will not be making the list.

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