VAULT Festival at the Vaults
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Gaynor O'Flynn, whose show Time premièred this week, could be considered someone to admire.
She has decades of experience as an artist, film-maker and campaigner in the arts across the globe, working with organisations ranging from Channel 4 to UNESCO, collaborating with a kaleidoscope of people from Bjork to the Dalai llama by way of Alan Bleasdale and Eddie Izzard.
And yet during her recent MA in Text and Performance at RADA, she experienced what it felt to be overlooked. Yes, Gaynor O'Flynn had unexpectedly joined the army of women in their fifties who had become voiceless and invisible.
The event triggered Time. Harnessing O'Flynn's CreaTech experience, this new project is the beginning of a social movement encompassing an app to connect creative women globally, an artwork in the making, and the digital-live hybrid theatre piece currently showing at Vault Festival.
Solo show Time focuses on a middle-aged woman who, like most women of her age, has an appearance that belies her experiences. What makes this woman a heroine is turning adversity to opportunity, and developing invisibility as a post-menopausal superpower.
Stealthily, she visits now-lost friends from her past, listening to reminiscences from which emerges the portrait of a single life seen through many lenses.
This cubist impression of a woman is provided by a cast of giant-sized virtual characters, O’Flynn's "bigger, better, brighter friends".
Their uniformly disproportionate stature and bright colours deliberately dwarf O'Flynn when she takes the stage purposefully dowdy in head-to-toe black. What is less intentional is that their long monologues also dominate the narrative, lacking incision and diminishing the live passages.
This would be less of a problem if the simulated images were more visually engaging but, like O'Flynn herself in the live elements, they are largely motionless in identikit posture, with their neutral, unchanging facial expressions at odds with the tones of voice.
Ultimately, this wordy show, which is written, performed and directed by Gaynor O’Flynn, falls short of being a call to arms for women of that certain age to be seen and heard. It is by its nature too static to mobilise.
It is nonetheless interesting in content and form. Time received mentoring under the VAULT 5 programme and presently it still feels like a work in progress, so hopefully there will be more opportunities for development in the future. Middle-aged women as a group are slowly being recognised as an under-represented voice and pieces like this from O'Flynn need to be given a platform not only for women but for the life lessons it could offer everyone.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti