Envelope – Out of the mouths of Vertebras

Envelope - The Vertebras
Envelope – The Vertebras

At the age of twenty three, Finn O’Branagain had a sneaking suspicion that she was becoming an adult but wasn’t quite sure how to be sure. So she wrote Envelope.

This lead her on a quest to discover how other people knew when they had reached adulthood and in turn lead to the production of Envelope; a fascinating collation and dramatisation of her findings. Performed by the all female performance collective The Vertebras, Envelope uses a plethora of theatrical devices to present this stylistically unique work, and I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed it.

The real stories and anecdotes are drawn together into one life experience or focus point – the mythical Jane Citizen – and dished out casually in the form of letters or journal-like entries read or spoken directly to the audience. The stories are charming and honest. O’Branagain’s decision to use verbatim dialogue worked well. A wide demographic were interviewed for the piece hence bringing depth and variation in the stories.

O’Branagain’s, and indeed the performers’ naivety, is used to great effect as another way into the stories; rather than trying to be wise (read cynical) beyond their years, they take delight in their discoveries. You could hear audience members giggle with recognition each time one of their own experiences surfaced and the recognition was enhanced for those of us who have ‘become adult’ on many occasions. A pessimist may be depressed by the realisation that human life experiences are so similar, but an optimist is sure to be comforted by finding that they are not alone.

A very touching, beautiful and unique idea saw each member of the audience, upon entry into the theatre, receive a personal note from one of the previous audience members. And subsequently, after the show finished, the new audience member was given the opportunity to leave a note for someone in the next audience.The notes that I read were surprisingly meaningful for such a playful gesture and allude to how touching this piece of work is.

The stand-out performance came from Katy Cotter. Cotter is a natural at this kind of performance and relishes the humour of the edgy and personal. However Envelope is truly a collective effort and the entire ensemble worked well together. Envelope has been developed and produced with the support of Backbone Youth Arts & The Metro Arts through their Elevate project which was designed as an opportunity for emerging ensembles to share their work through the Metro Arts Independents season – in this instance, support well spent.

Season now closed

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