Pros: A combination of frenetic dance and monologue results in a touching exploration of relationships.
Cons: Occasionally the dance takes place too low for any but the front row to see.
The audience enters the small studio theatre to a largely bare stage, whose only feature is a two-metre cube frame made of extruded aluminium. The back of the cube is a sheet of plywood with a circular hole cut in it, through which we can see a large electric fan. A nod from the usher on the door and the lights go down. A woman in her twenties appears on stage as the fan starts up. She’s dressed in shiny black PVC hot pants and a nylon halter neck top, and she begins to twitch in the blast of the fan. The twitching turns to jerking, becoming more and more frantic as she writhes and contorts in the air stream – a frenetic dance that lasts a full ten minutes.
Eventually, the dance stops. The woman, Jessica Latowicki, takes a drink of water, a spray of perfume and a blast from an asthma inhaler, and addresses the audience for the first time. ‘Do you like my dance?’ she says in a harsh American accent. ‘I made it for you, because I knew you’d be coming.’ She goes on to introduce us to the slim, bearded man in the lighting booth, lit by a desk lamp at the side of the stage. This is Tim, she tells us, who wrote the play. Tim is her boyfriend, she confesses, although he’d probably rather she didn’t say that. And he definitely has the easy job of the evening, turning the lights up and down. “All he has to do, literally, is to lift a finger.”
What follows is a comic, scattershot monologue in which Jessica discusses relationships. She considers splitting the audience into two, those in relationships and those who are single, so that the singles might hook up and go for a drink afterwards and get together and have babies they would name Jess (‘…and that works even for a boy’). But mainly Jessica talks of her relationship with Tim, who responds with monosyllabic utterances to her direct questions, occasionally interjecting to correct her. Eventually Tim is goaded into in a form of conversation: an accusatory tit-for-tat as each outlines the other’s failings, trying to outdo each other in embarrassing them in front of the audience. But even here, there’s clearly a strong fondness between them: the personal details that are revealed could only be known through intimate acquaintance.
Jessica teases and converses with the audience throughout, treating us as her confidantes and occasionally asking individuals to voice certain phrases for Tim’s benefit. ‘Do you ever get the feeling someone’s putting words in your mouth? Say “sometimes”.” ‘Sometimes’, replies the audience member dutifully.
This is a funny, touching and surprisingly emotionally engaging show. At just over an hour it’s hugely physically demanding for Jessica, who ends with another dance that involves spinning round and round for several minutes, which clearly leaves her dizzy and unable to stand straight. Some of the movement takes place lying on the floor, which is the only directorial mistake – the seating arrangement means she’s visible only to the front row of the audience.
I’ve given this show a five star rating not because it’s the best show in London, but because it achieves what it sets out to do with perfection. It’s a truly extraordinary performance from Jessica Latowicki, both in terms of the physical exertion of the dances and in the way she teases, cajoles and entertains the audience. A thoroughly original concept, it’s hard to imagine how this could have been better written or performed.
Authors: Tim Cowbury and Jessica Latowicki
Choreography: Irene Cioni
Producer: Made in China
Box Office: 020 7478 0100
Booking Link: http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/tonight-im-gonna-be-the-new-me
Booking Until: 26 September 2015