Vermin

THEATRE


Vermin

The Caroline of Brunswick

39 Ditchling Road
Upper Lounge: MAY 28 at 14:00 (60 min) - Paid - Tickets from £5

Vermin

The Walrus

10 Ship Street
Raised Room: MAY 29 at 15:15 (60 min) - Paid - Tickets from £5
Raised Room: MAY 15 at 16:30 (60 min) - Paid - Tickets from £5
Raised Room: MAY 16, 22 at 20:15 (60 min) - Paid - Tickets from £5
Raised Room: MAY 19, 30 at 21:30 (60 min) - Paid - Tickets from £5

Vermin

“You could hear them under the floor…making something of a home for themselves.

But this was our home. Not theirs.”

Rachel and Billy didn’t meet in the most usual of circumstances. But seven months later, they’re in love, married and moving into the potential house of their dreams. What could be better? Following an unsettling discovery of a rat infestation, Rachel and Billy find their lives and relationship spiralling out of control, forcing them to go to war with their pesky intruders…and each other. A darkly comic emotional rollercoaster that is full of laughs, shocks, secrets and vengeance.

Ticket types this year are Paid, Pay What You Can and Free - this is how it works: Paid: The show is fully ticketed and you pay in advance or on the door; Pay What You Can: You can choose to buy a ticket in advanced to guarantee entry and what to pay over a minimum amount OR turn up at the venue to get in for free in any space that is left; Free: The show is free entry and can be ticketed or unticketed. Watch the show, and the performer will ask for donations at the end for those that would like to contribute.



News and Reviews for this Show

REVIEW: Vermin

May 17, 2022    Broadway Baby

REVIEW: Vermin

In Rachel and Billy’s life, rats scratch at drywall and run across kitchen countertops. Vermin is an unfiltered account of their imploding relationship and the rodent shaped wedge being driven between them. In this dark drama, two characters driven by obsession divulge some chilling confessions.

The playscript is written with such purpose it is evident that every word has been consciously chosen. Triptych Theatre does not mince its words, not one is wasteful padding to soften the drama. Benny Ainsworth’s writing seamlessly transitions from scene to scene despite the flips between retrospective narration and flashbacks of the real-time events. Obvious care has been taken in the structuring of the scenes and the flow of the story felt like a natural progression; strongly led by the actors. Additionally, the interruptions of the graver parts of the story with the more humorous moments worked really well to momentarily cut the tension and left the audience with questions that would later be answered.

The noticeable thought given by Michael Parker, Benny Ainsworth and Sally Paffett into the production elements of Vermin is another reason it is such a strong show. The choice to stage it in an intimate room within The Walrus meant that the audience’s possible desire to avoid the uncomfortable narrative is removed; there is nowhere to look but the actors in front of you. Additionally, the absence of music or sound effects only increases the volume of the sobering silences. We were forced to confront Billy’s graphic violent descriptions head on, and squirm at the pleasure he gains from them – which evidently had the desired effect of audience discomfort, as I noticed a spectator with a hand over their mouth.

Lastly, I need to credit the actors for their incredible performances. Paffett undoubtably understood her character Rachel inside and out and she gave an extremely nuanced performance. As the show progressed, it was great watching the gradual change in her facial reactions from adoration to disgust whilst Billy recounted his side of the events. Her monologue about the tragic loss she faced was heart-breaking, and I can’t imagine what it takes to shake the character off and decompress after the show. She truly embodied Rachel and I believed every single word. Ainsworth as Billy was a terrific counterpart to Paffett. I loved how he looked to specific audience members when telling his story, attempting to pull them onside and initially succeeding with his cheeky-chappy demeanour. He gave an excellent performance of the extremely dark source material, complete with an unsettling glimmer in his eye that cast a deep unease over me.

You know something is an exceptional piece of drama when you come away and can’t stop thinking about it. Triptych Theatre have created a gritty and engrossing show which had me hooked from the moment Billy and Rachel stepped onto stage. If you enjoy dark comedy, Vermin is an absolute must-see this Fringe. Click Here For Review


Review: VERMIN by Benny Ainsworth/Triptych Theatre at Etcetera, Camden 25/26 March 2022

March 28, 2022    London Pub Theatres Magazine

Review: VERMIN by Benny Ainsworth/Triptych Theatre at Etcetera, Camden 25/26 March 2022

‘Vermin is a really strong piece of storytelling coupled with clever writing; fascinating, entertaining and horrifying all at once.’ ★★★★

When one has been reviewing on the fringe scene for as long as I have, every show starts to look like each other. Particularly during preview season. So, it's always refreshing when a show brings along something different. Even if that something different is completely unhinged. On paper, Vermin by Benny Ainsworth, is a typical fringe show. It's an hour-long two-hander with minimal set and minimal tech requirements. But what makes this show different are the characters, played by Benny Ainsworth and Sally Paffett.

Rachel and Billy are drawn to each other because they are different, two knives in a drawer full of spoons if you will. They meet under unusual circumstances and things move quickly from there on. Before they know it, they are married and living together in a house they plan to do up. But they aren't alone, there is another presence ever present in their relationship.

The snappy modern dialogue is well suited for the quick back and forth way the characters use to tell the story. We get to know Rachel and Billy as well as hear the story from both of their perspectives in an entertaining way. Ainsworth and Paffett have great chemistry and read well as a married couple going through the motions. The writing is clever and challenges the viewer to think after each laugh. Using hints of surrealism, the whole story reminds one of a modern folk tale, less H.C Andersen and more the original Grimm tales.

This show is not for the faint of heart and the trigger warnings could include more detail. Currently the show literature only says: Contains adult themes which may be distressing for some viewers. Whilst it is important not to spoil the integrity of the story, audiences may easily be triggered by various themes in this play. The show contains themes of suicide, miscarriage and graphic descriptions of animal abuse.

Additionally, it includes depictions of OCD that some may find upsetting. Billy uses his OCD to excuse his violent tendencies, a throw away statement that is not explored any further in the text and as a standalone statement seems rather uncalled for. With more context it might read as an interesting character study but as it is it looks as if the show is trying to use mental illness as a way to explain erratic behaviour. Although it is a well-known trope from older horror films but one I thought we'd moved past in 2022.

Vermin is a really strong piece of storytelling coupled with clever writing. It is fascinating, entertaining and horrifying all at once. It is one of those pieces that will have you talking for hours afterwards and definitely not one to miss at this year's fringe. Click Here For Review


VERMIN, Etcetera Theatre, London

March 28, 2022    The Theatre Reviewer

VERMIN, Etcetera Theatre, London

Written by Benny Ainsworth and directed by Michael Parker, this is a very unique and darkly entertaining play. Its characters are most original in their quirks and lusts, and plot, for the most part, is coherent and well structured.

I shall start with acting. Benny Ainsworth (playing Billy) and Sally Paffett (playing Rachel) have a great command on their roles, sure of their character intentions and credible in their approaches, particularly Paffett. Their characterisations are wonderful, and expressivity and emotional range are most impressive. However, more action is required from Ainsworth when Paffett is delivering her monologues alone. When Ainsworth delivers his, Paffett still remains attentive and energised, engaged in his words, paying extra attention to include characteristic shakes of the head, smiles and movements; during hers, however, Ainsworth stays inert and somewhat expressionless, to the point where one could argue that he is actually no longer acting. I should also note his failure to conceal the blood bags he uses later in the play appropriately. Nevertheless, Ainsworth is an excellent performer, overall, energised, confident and captivating. The two also demonstrate great attentiveness to naturalistic vocal delivery, as far as the text will allow, and both have great vocal expressivity, too.

The written text is most unique and offers explicit, detailed and enriched grounds for a promising performance. Whilst naturalism in dialogue is not entirely achieved, as alluded to above, the relationship between and the detailing of these characters is superb. I would just pay greater attention to plot development and character development, for the reasons I shall list below. Comedy is gory and sensationalist, peculiar and original. The nonlinear fragmentation of scenes and subplots is also most effective here, allowing for dynamism and variety in the material. Direct audience address is also consistent throughout this performance and the performer-audience relationship is maintained throughout whilst the characters’ stories are recounted to us, leading to excellent stylistic continuity — which seems standard, but this is actually denotative of great talent and skill, given how rare this stylistic awareness seems to be amongst playwrights today. I should also mention that audience address is handled wonderfully by the two actors, too, who do not restrict the ambit of their gaze and who address all audience members consistently. A wonderfully conceived and written text.

In terms of staging, lighting states (tech design and operation by Ben Sorab) are minimal, and this does not pose a problem for this performance, as the use of space, the expressivity of the actors, and the material itself, which remains extensive in its range of topics, memories and contexts, are enough to enliven the stage. Costume is appropriate for these performers, coinciding with the text’s natural propensity to humanise and naturalise these characters, which is most befitting for such villainous and murderous individuals from which it might be otherwise easy to detach. Topography is well-conceived, and the simplicity of the two chairs and their utilisation is sufficiently facilitative and grounding for this performance. I am also most impressed by the music composed by Sorab that precedes this performance. This music is most congruous and preparatory as well as well composed.


On to the negatives. The greatest issues for this performance are continuity, the structuring of provocative elements, and tempo management.

I shall address the former first, which mostly refers to Rachel’s character. Starting as a peculiar and unique character, sharing in Billy’s dark interest in the suicide of the man at the train station in the beginning of this performance and in the murder of Jeff the Cat, Rachel suddenly transforms into a rather weakly defined and amicable character at the appearance of the first rat. She becomes somewhat of a cliché, rather predictably replacing the spirit of her stillborn child with that of the rodents she befriends, aggravated by her layabout husband, his ignorance towards her and his obsession with tools.

Poisoning him at the end, one could say that she rather redeems herself, but I am afraid this ending is rather unoriginal, and not to mention predictable, especially with the conspicuous colour change in Billy’s commonplace cheesecake. Put bluntly, I remain rather disappointed with how her character turns out and disappointed by the ending which feels cheap and slapdash. To go from miming with explicit verbal detail the cracking of the back legs of a neighbour’s pet cat with garden shears and mircrowaving a rat to its explosive death to a subtle poisoning that we do not even see beyond Billy’s coughing blood is a great anticlimax. And why her suicide? This ought to be better elucidated. We really gain an insight into Billy’s character, and his fondness of chicken nuggets and tools should not be forgotten her, but further detailing of Rachel’s character is needed to ensure that she becomes more than this maternal cliché.

I should also mention here that this disinterest that Billy demonstrates and to which Rachel draws our attention during the discovery of the loss of their child is discontinuous with the plotline; at this point in the relationship, the two were madly in love, and Billy was as concerned by the miscarriage as Rachel was, as evidenced by his subsequent inability to even hear the child’s name. I do find it bizarre that either of them, especially to such a degree as Rachel, should be so emotionally invested in a child at all, given their apparent psychopathy. Conversely, I should expect they would be perhaps thrilled at the morbid idea of losing a child.

On to the second issue, which I should prelude with the elucidation that I personally had no issue with the darker elements of this text; I found them rather rich and imaginative. However, a dark text still requires two things: 1) we still need to be eased into material if it is to be considered comedic and [paradoxically] lighthearted, pleasing or cathartic, and 2) dark material needs to serve a purpose for the text itself and not just for the sensationalist instrumentalisation of the audience’s squeamishness [in other words: not merely for punchy, gory dramatic effect]. Jeff’s murder is far too extreme to include so early on. Again, it weakens the final scenes, but it also stops us in our tracks too prematurely in the performance from developing a bond with the characters. We must still understand Billy’s actions, if not enjoy them, and the later revelation that all of this is due to some sort of OCD feels like an afterthought or a retrospective justification, not a clever aspect of his psychology.

This explanation ought to come before, to allow a humanisation of the characters to prepare us for and ground us in their dark compulsions and desires, to give us a reason to tolerate being subjected to the horrors and an understanding as to why it is necessary to our reading of this story. The added vulnerability and likability of the average pet cat is also a factor that works against our enjoyment of the characters here. So early on in the play, we do not want to feel detached from and uncomfortable with these characters whose actions we must still observe for the best part of an hour. It is worth stressing here that whilst it is Billy specifically who details this event, Rachel is not exempt from our detachment, given that she enjoys, condones and encourages it: “My favourite.”

Again, the problem is not that the material is “too dark” but that it is poorly organised, and the creatives will find this apparent when re-studying the silence that befell the house that had previously comprised an entirely engaged and laughing audience up until the elaboration upon Jeff’s murder. This collective discomfort and reticence is a driving factor to simply destroy any subsequent comedic aspects of the play. Perhaps the story should be left with the bird, and the story of the cat should be ‘kept for later’ once we have learned more about Billy’s character and the context in which these characters later find themselves.

Finally, tempo management. Also an editorial issue, particularly in the beginning, where the back-and-forth between the two characters is rather too structured and hence inorganic, rhythm is a recurring issue in this performance which is in danger of becoming too univocal. Disruptions, where one character tells the other to stop talking to let them deliver their part alone, for example, are a good way of breaking this up, but their number becomes too significant, and the emotional effect this request has on the characters becomes too predictable and samey. More variation is required here, and such disruptions alone should not be relied upon to add rhythmic range. Furthermore, the actors, at times, speed through the text, and [this is mainly true of Paffett] do not allow enough time for audience laughter, leading to the repetition of their lines that the audience might not have heard. The two need to be better aware of their pacing and its naturalism and of these moments of respite where comedy can be permitted to settle in the house.

As one final, somewhat pedantic note, if the actors are to stay back to thank the audience for coming and to detail the future aspirations of their work, etc., I should recommend that Paffett’s demeanour be rectified during this. She seemed, for some reason, deflated and dejected, and this is by no means a desirable final energy with which one wishes to leave an audience.

All of these things noted, this still remains a most enjoyable and intelligent performance. It is well-conceived and performed marvellously.

“An inspired, rich and sensational performance.” Click Here For Review



Press & Media for this Show

Vermin