A boy. A girl. Chance encounters on the Tube, in the queue at Caffè Nero, interest stirred, a concentration and attention paid to small personal details, a tentative and bold step towards first words and communication-with breathless brevity, writer (and actor) Cordelia O’Neill sharply limns the arc of a relationship from its burgeoning start through to its eventual capsize on eruptive grounds of circumstance and sad, supreme indifference of the universe. An omniscient narrator orbits around the main characters, a suggestion of some greater (cosmic?) force acting beyond the couple to construct an alliance, the two heedlessly and helplessly in its grip, foolishly following its template, not for once believing that there is anything other than the traditional trajectory in place. Small quibbles with in-laws, friends, preferences, each other’s personality traits and characteristics gently trouble the surface, but remain benign in threat, until a truly tragic turn severely, and with sweeping suddenness, wholly destabilises and breaks connection-with sanity, with comprehension, with sense, with basic belief in a benevolent universe, and ultimately with one another. O’Neill makes the audience keenly feel the sting of this piercing event, the gulf it creates, the intractable grief that consumes, hardens and exiles especially one individual. The audience is just as beguiled as the central couple, so breezing along on the heady tumult of a relationship in progress that when the ground is abruptly altered, it’s left as scalded and bereft and unmoored as the characters. O’Neill also does something very skilful with the narrator, who almost imperceptively shifts into an aspect with a much more personal stake in the story, so subtle you long to go back over preceding moments, now armed with the knowledge, to witness how she may have been all along building it into the script. This piece is emblematic of the opportunities a festival such as Vault provides: a forum and space to develop and produce work by forcefully talented emerging artists, with bold voices and fearless style. Vault continues through 18 March-in addition to the list of arts events, the venue also hosts a restaurant, cafe and bar, plenty of areas to gather for an evening’s full, satisfying entertainment.


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