Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Empty Vessels

Greg Freeman
Red Bear Theatre
Rosemary Branch Theatre

Empty Vessels

Plumber Travis is a reality television “star” who has nearly completed his autobiography—or rather Bethany his ghostwriter has.

He is staying with her at her unfinished villa on a Greek island. Another would-be writer called Eric is a fellow guest, a friend who seems to be helping with the building work. Scathing about Travis’s celebrity, he asks, “are you a real person in a fake show or a fake person in a real show?”

With millions of followers on Twitter and two and a half thousand women admitting to dreaming of having sex with him, Travis is feels secure in his fame. But—just when they need one—the bog has got blocked, and it turns out he isn’t really a plumber.

Eric is a bit of a fake too. He’s a writer who hasn’t even started his first book. He may have given up his job as a pastry chef in Basingstoke to take a year’s sabbatical to write a fantasy inspired by the legend of Dr Faustus but he’s still at the research stage. Part of that involves a web site he’s set up to buy souls.

The roar of a motorbike brings a visitor: a young woman who says her name is Athena and who wants to buy one of the souls Eric claims to have already purchased.

But how did she find him? The Ferryman4 of the web site only makes contact online.

If a real goddess turned up, would you believe it? Sophia Hannides is making her professional debut as this one. She looks gorgeously Grecian and plays with presence.

Ben Warwick makes Eric very likeable even if he’s a bit of a wimp and Tobias Deacon makes Travis’s honesty compensate for his obnoxiousness with Fliss Wilton giving Bethany a façade of face-saving importance that a writer might hide behind when feeling a bit demeaned by taking on ghost work.

This is a light-hearted look at what’s real and what isn’t, at people’s fantasies, taking knocks at TV and selfies and pretensions.

When Athena gets her hands on one of Eric’s souls, the plot gets chaotic with everyone taking on Travis’s Welsh accent and there is a neat twist in the tail of this tale.

Greenery, columns and lighting man Leo Steele’s warm sunshine make you feel on a Greek holiday while scene transitions are bridged by lively tunes with a Greek touch, if rather westernised, and that all helps the pace.

Writer Greg Freeman does overwork some of his gags, director Ken McClymont moves things on rapidly and it is still funny.

Is your soul for sale? If the writing intends to say something more serious, you can think about that after you’ve left the theatre.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton