Review: Big Bad – 4**** – VAULT Festival 2018, London @BigBadPlay @VAULTFestival @ArabellaGibbins #Vaults2018 @SabinaCCJ

#Tweetingit – Our new reviewer, Sabina, gives 4**** to this highly recommended one-woman show about internal struggles, female empowerment, with fantastic realism.

If you look up Big Bad, you’ll see that it is often described as a black comedic story of imprisonment, resistance, and female sexuality. And that’s not wrong. This feminist tale revolves around the resilience of a self-labelled “monster”, who turned her initial victimisation into something powerful. Big-BadShe doesn’t subscribe to the whole “don’t let it define you” – she clearly states that it did define her; it changed who she was and helped her become who she is, for better or for worse. Maybe I over-analysed it, but I couldn’t help it – the psychological and sociological effects of traumatic events have always intrigued me, and they were tastefully presented (if a bit conspicuously) from minute one. But I should probably mention that it is a very introspective piece, so if you prefer world-describing to internal struggles, this might not be the show for you.

When I decided to attend Big Bad, I was actually a bit wary that a one-(wo)man show might not be the best performance for me– I get distracted easily so I feared I might get lost by the end of the show. However, that turned out not to be true. This gripping one-hour story was beautifully told by Arabella Gibbins, and even made some references to some of London’s dark past. I won’t spoil it for you, but I must admit that my personal and professional fascination with criminals was fuelled throughout the show. I found Arabella very expressive and I think she did an amazing job at keeping us captivated, eager to know more about what went wrong and why she is now confined in a murky basement.

Speaking of which, the setting was perfect: the whole story was set in a basement in London; the show was underneath the Waterloo station, in a very basement-like room. The first thing on my mind when entering the room was “Damn, this is stifling!”; I’m not sure if they were going for realism, or it just so happened that the location was hot and slightly damp, but I did feel like I walked into a deviant’s secret playroom. The sound and lighting was used sparsely, which only added to the general atmosphere when entirely necessary.

I also have to mention the female crew behind Big Bad; with more and more feminist shows coming to London, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out. But their story of defiance in the face of hardship, of finding your inner strength and of never giving up is inspirational.

If there is one thing I cannot forget to mention is that they had no trigger warnings – there was a note on the door advising us that there will be strobe lighting and such, but some of the themes touched on were not to be taken lightly. I think that the main reason why this came to mind is because I was a bit confused when she started talking about her trauma – perhaps it was my criminologist’s brain, but I was under the impression that she was talking about being raped, even though the more I think about it, the more I believe she didn’t actually say anything to directly make me believe that.. But the similarities between what the experienced and what a rape victim might experience – at the very least in terms of consequences on one’s sense of worth – are undeniably there and might do with some warning.

Maybe this is also why I liked the show more when I started writing this review, rather than during it. Maybe the strong emotional impact required me to take more time to process what I had just experienced. Either way, I would definitely recommend going to see this, particularly if you’re a fan of internal struggles, female empowerment and fantastic realism.

Writer – Jodi Gray

Director – Deirdre McLaughlin

Producer – Sarah Morris

The VAULT Festival 2018, London

Running until 18 March 2018. Matinee available on 17th March.

More information at:

Reviewer: Sabina



Published by Playhouse Pickings

Theatre blog run by Rhiannon; a civil servant, D&D player, sci fi fan, immersive theatre lover and gin enthusiast

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