When selecting something from a vending machine, do you ever spare a thought for the the unlucky ones you leave behind? Have you considered how crushed a can of pop must feel after each rejection, or witnessed a bottled beverage contemplating their mortality? Whether you’re deeply attuned to the feelings of fizzy drinks, or just craving some surrealist comedy, there’s a show on at VAULT Festival which will quench your theatrical thirst.
Set in a leisure centre vending machine, QUENCH follows the adventures of a trio of drinks who have been overlooked for years. Not only are they hurtling towards their best before dates but the leisure centre’s closing down, meaning time is running out for Sparkling (Stephanie Noblet), Appletania (Hayley Worboys) and Electrolyte (Millie Thorne). To make things worse, there’s a cocky new can to compete with. Fizzy, fresh and plastic free, Sparkling Orange (Grant Leat) will surely be a short-term machine mate before he heads off to fulfill his destiny of deliciousness. But things aren’t quite what they seem, and soon the foursome find themselves teaming up in an attempt to break for freedom before they all end up in a skip.
We were intrigued by the marketing for this show when we first saw the VAULT line up and it absolutely does what it says on the tin. It’s a deliciously daft production but it’s not just all bubbles and no flavour. Writer, Millie Thorne has impressively managed to get some real pathos into a production about bottles of pop. From friendship issues and bottled-up fragility, these drinks have a lot going on. It’s impossible not to root for them as they wait in line, desperate to finally be picked. Imagine if Toy Story had been “Soda Story”, and Pixar didn’t have a multi-million pound animation budget, and we can only assume that this would have been the result!
The QUENCH quartet are all fantastically funny, but we especially enjoyed Grant Leat as Fizzy Orange (imagine Joe Wilkinson crossed with a can of Fanta) and Millie Thorne as the hilariously low energy sports drink, Electrolyte. The costume choices (brightly coloured sports gear) are inspired, and Akaash Meeda’s direction gets the best out of Thorne’s witty script. It’s a nicely paced production which is just the right length, and with a 6.30pm start you can easily fit in these drinks before dinner.
Overall, QUENCH is fizzing with fun and a great VAULT Festival choice. Just be prepared to find it very difficult walking past vending machines on the way home without making a sympathy purchase.
QUENCH plays at VAULT Festival from 7 to 9 February 2023. We received complimentary press tickets to the performance on 8 February.