Review: Vertigo – The Junction, Cambridge

Small is often beautiful in theatre and such is the case with Vertigo, not one but two shows woven into a cohesive whole. The story goes that, due to an error, two young actors were booked to perform their show called Vertigo at the same venue at the Edinburgh Festival. Rather than compete the two combine forces to create a touching look at life, hopes and fears.

Part monologue, part comedy, part cabaret, vertigo takes us on a whirlwind trip through Philippa and Tom’s childhoods, though the trials and tribulations of youth are nothing compared with the challenges that adulthood promises.

A series of scenes intertwine, superficially individual but combining to create a warm and textured piece. Tom’s recollection of learning to ride his first bike is a wonderful combination of observation and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, while Philippa’s sharing of her first skydive reduces the audience to tears of joy.

Alongside the comedy, though, there is a deeper, darker vein. As Tom shares with us the moment when he told his first true love his feelings for her it’s a deeply personal moment. When we then go on to hear that she didn’t reciprocate those feelings, it turns into something much more poignant – almost too uncomfortable to watch but handled with skill.

The piece is deceptively simple – on the surface manic and improvised, but look closer and it’s all carefully constructed and thought out. Technical support from Tom’s ‘French Exchange Student’ Chris Bradbury adds another level of subtle humour without ever losing the poignancy and charm of the piece.

As a first piece it’s an impressive debut and one that could easily extend beyond its current 50 minutes, though whatever future plans, it needs to be careful to retain its small scale charm. The medical condition vertigo may induce dizziness and headaches but the show is likely to leave audiences dizzy with laughter and tears.

Originally written for The Public Reviews

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