How We Begin - The Vaults
A bittersweet examination of the complexities of queer female love
Despite steps in the right direction, bisexual representation and stories are few and far between, whether that be in tv, film or on the stage. Once thought of being merely a stopover on the road to being gay or lesbian, bisexual narratives are just as worthy to be told and that is what writer Elisabeth Lewerenz and director Elizabeth Benbow set out to do with How We Begin.
They are just friends who met in freshers week. Friends that are with other people, but then one is with another person and the other is not. Distance and time separate them but following a long-distance Skype call where Helen hopes that Diana “still thinks she’s cool,” there is something more than friendship present. Even though Diana has a boyfriend and “straight girl nails,” the two begin an intimate and tender affair that in its current secretive form was always doomed to fail.
There is something inherently charming and honest about Lewerenz’s script and the relationship they craft between Helen and Diana. The voice of the piece is accessible, sweet and endearing meaning that although impassible hurdles present themselves, this is a tale of queer joy and accepting who you are. The snappy back-and-forths effectively flesh out the characters as we hear their inner thoughts and personal perspectives of the events where this relationship began and ended.
Talia Pick and Emma Lucia wield wickedly strong chemistry throughout the production. The ease at which they bring life to Lewerenz’s writing is outstanding, confidently embodying their characters through strong movement and tone. Direction from Benbow kept the pace of the piece moving whilst equally allowing for moments of pause that nicely grew the tension when needed, all whilst making good use of the minimal space available in The Vaults Pit.
There are areas where I would like to see more, however - the regular transitions that demonstrated the passage of time could do with rethinking and were not helped by clunky lighting shifts. Additionally, there is scope for creative sound design here as well that would have the potential to amplify emotions further but selfishly I was left wanting to know more of the women’s story, more of their relationship, their self-discovery and what happened to them after the events of the play - a true testament to the entire creative team.
How We Begin is a rare nugget of bisexual, queer joy that is simultaneously life-affirming and tragic. Led by Lewerenz’s text, strong direction and two beautifully grounded performances this is a play brimming with potential - one not to miss, deserving of a life beyond The Vaults.
Running until 19 Feb at The Vault Festival - Tickets
Photography by Ross Kernahan