Venue: Lass O'Gowrie
Where: Manchester

Lassfest is an oddity. Although the festival is promoted as fringe theatre it comprises largely adaptations from other media – comics and cult films. But at least V for Vendetta- with a masked central character constantly quoting from plays – has a strong theatrical element.

In a dystopian version of Britain high-ranking officials are picked off in a vendetta waged by the masked anarchist ‘ V’ (Daniel Thackeray). He recruits an orphan, Evey Hammond (Sinead Parker), to assist in his more ambitious agenda of overthrowing the totalitarian state and moves her towards an unimaginable destiny.

Sean Mason’s respect for the original comic by Alan Moore and Ian Lloyd is apparent in his adaptation that squeezes as much of the source material as possible onto the stage. Mason revels in the word play and puns around the letter ‘v’ and the number ‘five’.

The writer’s ambitious approach requires a large cast and constant scene changes and the scale of the production limits the discretion of director Ross Kelly. He does a commendable job making the complex storyline comprehensible but the rapid pace of the play hinders the ability of the cast to develop the characters. Of the villains only Carly Tarett is able to show Delia Surridge’s descent from a blindly optimistic idealist willing to commit terrible atrocities in the cause of science to a woman worn down by guilt.

More significantly it is hard to develop any emotional commitment to the play. You have to wait for the second act and a powerful scene between Paida Noel and Sinead Parker to feel anything other than intrigued.

Director Kelly realises that voices are an important part of the play. For one thing sightlines in the venue are poor making the cast are invisible when seated and dependent on vocals. The character of propagandist Lewis Prothero demands a rich persuasive tone that is well delivered by Jez Smith; unfortunately Stuart Hudson over-does the lush voice for his creepy priest. Daniel Thackeray is denied the use of facial expressions being completely masked throughout the play. Initially he shapes his performance with a grand theatrical tone. But as V’s revenge continues Thackeray goes beyond the superficial approach to show the anger that lies below the surface.

Scytheplays have attempted a very difficult adaptation the success is of which is limited only by an over-respectful approach to the original.

- Dave Cunningham