Pros: Peta Lily has the ability to make you laugh with just a flick of the hair, a rolling of the eyes or make you wince with an intimidating stare.
Cons: the performance is not very long but can lag.
There is a lot to be said for autobiographical one man performances (in this case one woman). I do need to make clear from the offset that this is a performance in every sense of the word, not a monologue or soliloquy. It’s an exploration of performer Lily’s experience when she decides to give up the insecure world of theatre making and go corporate. Alas, the north London audience know from the get go that big business does not pay.
It’s an interesting argument that Lily makes, albeit not one that hasn’t been explored through performance before. Where Lily’s performance differs, however, is in her commitment to weed out the theatricality of even the most mundane circumstances. And for this, she gets a massive two thumbs up from me. She is a sublimely talented physical theatre performer. She has the ability to make you laugh with just a flick of the hair, a rolling of the eyes or make you wince with an intimidating stare.
Her quest for enlightenment and serenity after her marriage’s breakdown leads her to study advanced meditation techniques, hilariously brought to life on stage. And after the death of two close friends, she closes the door on her performance career to work as a facilitator for an unnamed corporation. Her performance is aided by the numerous props she uses to differentiate her worlds, at one point she whips out a toy light sabre as she re-enacts the hero’s journey as part of a work group exercise.
The purpose of this piece is to investigate just how to balance our lives when we’re stuck between earning a living and living our passion. Sadly, something we can all relate to. And of course this question goes unanswered. The themes resonate strongly with the audience, however, there are times when what is presented on stage is a bit confusing.
Lily’s performance is of course kept cohesive and dramatically coherent by Director and Dramaturge Di Sherlock. I would have loved to sit in a corner of the rehearsal room with these two women as they flushed out Lily’s ideas. Ciaran Cunningham is clearly an expert at lighting design for small performance spaces. She makes the tiny room above this north London boozer feel almost like a small arena with multiple shades of fluorescent lighting. This is the best kind of lighting designer – one who aids the storytelling rather than someone who is just there to provide visual cues or to simply light a performer. Nick Crofts provides the sound track for the production. There are moments of calm and stillness, unabashed funk and horror movie sounds. Plainly, Lily and Sherlock have chosen their team well.
It’s a very interesting argument Lily presents, but at fifty-five minutes in length the performance is not very long, yet can lag. Despite this, Lily is my favourite kind of performer. She is brave, funny, honest and clearly enamoured with her craft. And she has a sense of humour, the most important trait a theatre maker can cultivate.
So there are no answers to how we can best balance our need to work and need to live our lives. But we can all laugh together along the way.
Directed by: Di Sherlock.
Written and Performed by: Peta Lily.
Lighting by: Ciaran Cunningham.
Sound design by: Nick Crofts.
Booking until: 7th June.
Booking link: http://www.lionandunicorntheatre.com/invocation.php
Box Office: 08444 771 000
Part of: GOlive Dance & Performance Festival.