Take a browse through the VAULT Festival programme and you’ll find theatre companies of every ilk gracing those stages under the railway arches, you might even find the odd post-show Q&A too. In My Name Is we get a taste of many them, as Haste Theatre give us an unusual take on the mystery of Anastasia Romanov.
There are of course many versions of the Anastasia story itself; it’s been turned into films, animations and stage musicals, it’s a story that has captivated generation after generation. The company welcomes us to a very special performance that will be made up of a PowerPoint presentation, the amusing slides are interspersed with video scenes that have an Acorn Antiques vibe to them.
But then something goes awry with the presentation, and following a quick blast of Slim Shady, we’re watching a German experimental theatre company tell the next part of the story. Another round of Slim and we’re watching a physical theatre company, and before we know it we’re at the post-show Q&A, though not for the show we’re actually watching.
This meta-theatrical approach is a novel idea, and will certainly appeal to those audiences familiar with, or have had to endure, similar theatrical productions. The company are skilled enough in each genre to produce a good parody, without fooling us that any of it is serious, and it’s often a very funny hour.
There are some really magical moments amongst it all. In the physical theatre piece, where Anastasia is in an institution, the staging and the movement does well to invoke a sense confinement and limited space. Similarly, the Q&A highlights that when the Anastasia story is told it often focusses on the romanticised fairy-tale, rather than the sadder story of Anna Anderson, the woman many believed to be the Russian Princess.
Towards the end though, My Name Is starts to lose its way, the mismatched styles and story become too much of a jumble and audience interest starts to wane. Neither does it have a satisfying conclusion, much like the story it’s telling, ending abruptly and out of kilter with the rest of the piece.
The cast of My Name Is; Elly Beaman-Brinklow, Valeria Compagnoni, Jesse Dupré and Sophie Taylor work extraordinarily well together, and they engage with the audience in all the different guises the show chooses to take. It’s a fascinating concept that’s largely enjoyable, and while we might not learn anything new about Anastasia Romanov, we do find out there are many different ways to tell a story.
VAULT Festival 2023 runs Tuesday 24th January to Sunday 19th March, full listings and ticket information can be found here.