“The Tinker” at the Vault Festival

On a dark and stormy night, a couple in an isolated house receive an unexpected guest. There’s plenty of atmosphere to enjoy in Olivia Foan’s period drama and, if the show poses a moral dilemma rather than the spooky story you might initially expect, it remains very enjoyable.

The Edwardian age is tricky for fringe drama as props can be expensive. But designer Nikki Charlesworth has done very well (apart from the shoes). And if the language in the script might be stricter – modern terms sneak in – the plot is neat and twisty.

The couple, who have a tragic history, are brought to life by Lauren O’Leary and Keon Martial-Phillip. There’s thorough work behind the performances. Evelyn’s anxiety is a mystery that becomes moving, while Frank’s demons are revealed with skill. The dynamics of their relationship are interesting and dramatic.

Giles Abbott

The guest that gives the play its title is more of a problem. Giles Abbott gives a commendable performance, but the line between charisma and cliché might be crossed once or twice too often. Frank and Evelyn leap to suspicions… maybe the audience could have more doubts about the character, too? The Tinker takes up a lot of time and space in a play that isn’t, really, about him. Motives flip-flop too much, and his final action is downright odd.

The story that develops is both melodramatic and believable – which is a tricky mix to pull off. Children are the key (with a strong sense of period detail), and the plot turns on power. The wealthy Frank and Evelyn show themselves as ruthless. And a final twist suggesting the plan they hatch won’t work out is a great touch. The Tinker isn’t without problems but there’s enough strong work for all involved to be pleased.

Until 19 February 2023