Tron Theatre, Glasgow
“There’s going to be a public enquiry,” says the under-pressure boss of a failed institution at one point in Scottish Youth Theatre’s new devised show created and performed by this year’s seventeen-strong ensemble. “We’re off the hook.”
Given SYT’s turbulent last six months in terms of surviving public funding decisions, such insights might well apply to organisations infinitely closer to home that affected SYT’s livelihood. As it is, Vent is a play that looks at the very prescient topic of mental health. Ross Mackay’s production does this, not by dramatised confessionals, but by setting it in a landscape that could have been dreamt up for Black Mirror by way of Westworld.
The Vent of the title is a hi-tech state-of-art centre to which people with mental health issues are referred. Once in residence, the patients effectively role-play their assorted anxieties. These are brought to life by a regiment of robots who play all the other parts, taking each scenario to extremes. So a suicidal teenager is cajoled into squaring up to his more confident self; a harassed young mum finds out what would happen if she drowned her screaming baby; and a girl who ties herself up in knots with debt learns the power of talking to others.
Things don’t always go to plan, as Vent’s Frankenstein’s monster of co-counselling morphed with assorted radical therapies comes under official scrutiny that leads to the aforementioned public enquiry.
This is all deftly realised by Mackay’s well-drilled cast, with various scenarios woven together and linked by Vent’s hapless manager Phil having a crisis of his own inbetween sparring with the centre’s deceptively wise janitor George. This makes for much levity inbetween the serious and all too recognisable situations on show. In the end, the letting off of steam that Vent provides may not solve things, but as George’s parting words hint at, the mess the patients are dealing with is not of their making.
The Herald, July 25th 2018