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Sue MacLaine's Vessel comes to Battersea Arts Centre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

SUE MacLaine’s latest theatre work Vessel, which unpicks historical and contemporary ideas of activism to ask how we define a political act, runs at Battersea Arts Centre from November 6 to November 24, 2018.

A follow up to MacLaine’s Total Theatre Award-winning work Can I Start Again Please, Vessel takes inspiration from the remarkable history of Anchoritism (a life of strict and irreversible enclosure entered into by an elaborate ceremony during which the last rites were administered) to ask if voluntary solitude could ever be defined as a political act.

In a world of protests, political incompetence and incomprehension, MacLaine’s characteristically poetic language layers the contrasting voices, and silences, of four women. Through battles with the demands of modern living, from the personal to the political, Vessel imagines a life where shutting oneself off from the world could be considered the most radical protest of all.

Vessel will be performed by a diverse cast of four women – Karlina Grace-Paseda, Julie Cleves, Angela Clerkin and Kailing Fu.

The performance uses creative captioning throughout designed by digital artist Giles Thacker and will bring together lighting and set designer Ben Pacey, choreographer Seke Chimutengwende and sound designer Owen Crouch.

Sue MacLaine said: “I discovered the practice of Anchoritism after visiting a church in Lewes where the remains of an anchoress cell are still visible and I began to contemplate how this 12th century radical act of withdrawal could speak to 21st century audiences and what it would say. I began to think about political activism and how we survive and respond to the current bombardment of political catastrophe and the personal challenges that face each of us every day.

“It seems to me that a huge strength of character is required to make the choice to withdraw. This led me to questions of what does it mean to be stable and what does it mean to be mobilised? Could this act of withdrawal be viewed as political activism and as a legitimate strategy for survival?”

Vessel can also be seen at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (October 25 and 26) and Edge Hill Arts Centre, Lancashire as part of DaDaFest International (December 3).

Vessel is suitable for ages 16+.

Tickets (for BAC): £12.50, £10 concessions. To book, call 020 7223 2223 or visit

Time: Monday to Saturday at 7.45pm.

NB: All performances are captioned. The performance on November 14 at 7:45pm will be Relaxed. This means that audience members are free to move about, make noise and come and go during the show.