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Pole Factor at the VAULT Festival

| Festivals, Hidden London, Theatre | 06/02/2014

Pole Factor - Reena Lalbihari
Pole Factor - Reena Lalbihari

As I walked down the colourful Leake Street near Waterloo Station, it became fairly obvious that any expectations I had for Pole Factor at The Vaults should just be thrown out of the window (imagine falling down a psychedelic version of Alice’s rabbit hole). Pole Factor is an Angry Bairds production written by Nazish Khan that satirises society’s obsession with media and celebrity in a way that (more often than not) cuts quite close to the bone.

Pole Factor is a play about the destructive power of obsession. It covers obsession in many forms including obsession with faith, fame and love. Sameera Mohammed (known as Coco), is a finalist in the latest reality TV show ‘Pole Factor’. Obsessed with the idea of becoming a celebrity, she is constantly looking for the next publicity stunt that will increase her followers on social media sites. In a controversial stunt Coco becomes embroiled in an anti-Muslim campaign that sparks a tragic series of events.

Pole Factor is a deceptively dark play and becomes increasingly so as the action moves forwards. Characters you think are ‘normal’ turn out to be just as twisted by an obsession as those who start the play that way. In keeping with the dark tone, this play fits a whole lot in – abuse (mental and physical), kidnap, radicalism, and questions of identity. Rather than being a bit preachy or completely in your face, these themes do actually work together. The pole is centre stage throughout, acting as an anchor for the action and keeping it so that all the various themes are a logical follow on from the ‘Pole Factor’ show.

Fiona McGee plays Gina really well as a suitably chirpy and two-faced contestant who spends half the time preening and popping her hip for the camera. Gina is an interesting contrast to Coco (played by Reena Lalbihari) who is semi-naive and easily manipulated. But it is Coco’s descent into a frenzied obsession and her sudden realisation that she is not the only one in the grips of such an obsession that really stood out for me.  It is a small cast (there’s only four of them) but the way they interact with one another on-stage is spot on and captures the often claustrophobic atmosphere of the play really well.

Pole Factor is a vicious and amusing (occasionally uncomfortable so) satire of society and it’s obsession with reality ‘celebrities’. The script seems to be trying to verge towards the controversial in an attempt to expose the failings of modern culture but it never quite gets there. It tries hard and is rife with topical references but I do think there is something lacking. Whilst it slightly missed the mark for me, Pole Factor was an entertaining way to while away an hour and worth it for a visit to the venue alone.

Pole Factor is part of the Vault Festival and runs until Saturday 8th February in the Vault Studio. The show starts at 7pm and is an hour long. Vault is a six week festival of arts and entertainment running until March 8th at The Vaults, Waterloo. The program for this festival is vast, hugely varied and worth checking out. For more information visit

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