Helen at Vault Festival

Nothing to Perform’s HELEN at VAULT Festival ★★

Safe, unoriginal and straightforward, Nothing to Perform’s HELEN is a story about Britain’s first astronaut in space. 

Helen | Vault Festival | 14-17 March | From £13

For a show to be programmed at the VAULT festival, there is a certain level of innovation, challenge and nuance that you might have come to expect – unfortunately, HELEN misses the mark.

Scott Howland’s play about Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman, dodges the space clichés of wonder or technology, only to present us with a domesticated story with a strange timeline and avoidance of any kind of interesting politics.

Director Harriet Taylor’s sadly uninspired approach includes keeping the actors sat down and tied to old fashioned telephones, moments of brief floaty physical theatre, and hyperventilation on stage with flashing lights and a scream – all of which stagnates the actors’ dedicated performances. There are some direct to audience moments that work well and the actors have consistent energy and some warm family moments.

A play about a woman written by a man, this production feels like it missed several opportunities both in the script and the direction.