Caligula and the Sea, The Vaults | Review

Thursday, 2 March 2023

Caligula and the Sea
The Vaults

Caligula and the Sea is a beautiful theatrical experience, that really works within the setting of the Vaults Festival. The play does a good job at immersing its audience in a vivid and surreal world, and expertly brings scenes to life with minimal set and just a few well-crafted props. The performances are great, with each actor bringing a unique energy and presence to their role.

Noah Silverstone as Caligula has both a childlike innocence and an unstable menace that works well to bring the mad Emperor to life; his guard, friend and confidant Cassius played by Felix Ryder is pretty nicely nuanced and has some well thought out character development which works well, and bodes well for future iterations of the play. Early on, Caligula meets Neptune (Riko Nakazono), God of the sea, who he makes a deal with for absolute power. Riko's performance is mystical and a lovely addition to the story which is dark and thought-provoking, delving into themes of power, corruption, and the consequences of unchecked desire.

Under the direction of Yuxuan Liu, Caligula and the Sea is hugely impressive in both technical aspects and staging. Fiona McKeon’s set design and visual aesthetic bring about striking visuals, from a forceful storm to a disappearing tide; it continually transports the audience to a world that is both familiar and otherworldly. The show's use of lighting (Hannah Bracegirdle) and sound (Aaron J Dootson) is particularly impressive, creating a haunting and evocative atmosphere that lingers long after the performance has ended. Also noteworthy is the use of puppetry, designed by Silverstone, that moves so well and adds an element of true interest to the show.
Whilst a lot of the show works, there are elements that need a fresh sweep over. The short running time means that in trying to cram in an epic story which spans many years, a lot doesn't have time to be properly explored and the nuances which work so well at the start, cannot be retained throughout. Beginning with Caligula’s exile, his rise to power and through to his eventual assassination, there's a lot to be seen and some of the more moving and effective aspects, such as Caligula's relationship with Cassius don't have time to be really developed. This means that there are some pacing issues and in attempting to say a lot of things, the show loses an overall moral or key plot point so the audience leave unsatisfied.
There's a lot of good in this show and with some edits it could certainly become a hit. While the play can be challenging at times, it is ultimately a rewarding and interesting show. Good performances and really strong theatrical elements make it a solid production.

Reviewed on Wednesday 1st March 2023

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}