Vault Festival preview: What The Dolls Saw

Welcome to this preview from the Vault Festival 2020.

What The Dolls Saw runs at the Pit from 5-9 February at 9pm (plus a 4.30pm performance on 8 February). I asked the writer of the show, Nic Lamont, to tell me a bit more about it and about her production company House of Macabre.

What The Dolls Saw promotional image, courtesy House of Macabre Twitter
What The Dolls Saw promotional image, courtesy House of Macabre Twitter

1. A dark comedy about sisterhood sounds intriguing. Tell me a bit more about it.

NL: It’s about three sisters who reunite in their childhood home for the funeral of their father. He was a world renowned dollmaker, so they are returning, quite literally, to a house of dolls.

Their mother is a flamboyant ex-actress who seems to be trapped in a Shakespearean tragedy and one of the sisters brings a mysterious stranger to the house.

Looming over these characters is an unsolved disappearance that happened several years ago. They must put aside family feuds and work together to unearth the darkest of family secrets…. 

2. How does it feel to be playing at The Vaults? Why did you choose the Pit as your venue?

We’re thrilled to be playing at The Vaults! The festival is very supportive of new writing and female-driven work.

Last year, we brought our play The Darklings to The Pit, and it is the perfect setting for dark comedy – the backdrop of the stage is an ancient crumbling cavern wall – incredibly atmospheric!

We were so pleased with the response to The Darklings as we received an After Dark Award nomination and were one of Lyn Gardner’s Top Picks of the Week. We’re excited to see what’s in store for What the Dolls Saw. 

Interior of The Pit at The Vaults. Courtesy Vault Festival 2020.
Interior of The Pit at The Vaults. Courtesy Vault Festival 2020.

3. How many dolls or descriptions of dolls should audiences expect to see and hear, and what’s their significance?

As you can imagine, there are quite a few dolls involved in the set! There is also a dark fairytale starring a doll named Little One that runs alongside the main narrative. This has been beautifully animated with shadow puppetry by Rebecca O’Brien as this show is in collaboration with her puppetry company Knuckle and Joint.

These vignettes bring a real Edward Gorey / Tim Burton feel to the show. Though very twee, the dolls really represent something much darker. The unseen father character in the play was obsessed with making the ‘perfect’ little girl; pretty, pristine, silent. This is something the sisters have fought against their whole lives. 

4. Why should an audience choose to see What The Dolls Saw?

If you are a fan of true crime and murder mysteries, you’ll enjoy this drip feed of clues.

If you like comedy, there’s lots of fun here despite the dark setting– these actors are some of the funniest people I know, and their characters are driven, sassy and fierce.

If you like to revel in the Gothic, then you can get wrapped up in the shadow puppetry and incredible original score by Ódinn Örn Hilmarsson. 

There’s also a wider message about the pressure upon women to fit into certain moulds. A small warning though: this is not a show for those with a phobia of dolls… or a fear of feminism…

5. This is the first all-female production from the House of Macabre, from writer to tech/creatives. What is the USP of the company?

The House of Macabre are productions created by either myself or Adam Rhys-Davies who is my partner in crime… quite literally as the two of us play murderous children in our comedy duo The Twins Macabre.

Adam is also bringing his one-man comedy show The Graham Show: Extra Graham to The Vaults from 17-19 March. It’s a real riot – check it out!

We describe the three interests of the company as comedy, horror and sass, and we get really excited when a show blends all three of those. Our productions always feature actors who aren’t just actors, who are comedians and improvisers, as we love finding moments to break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience.

We aim to make people a little scared, make them laugh, but leave them feeling empowered, and that is exactly what this all-female production is about. 

Vault Festival 2020. Courtesy Vault Festival Instagram.
Vault Festival 2020. Courtesy Vault Festival Instagram.

My thanks to Nic for her time in answering my questions. You can book for What The Dolls Saw at the Vault Festival website.