Pros: Engaging, smart and surprising, Jess Latowicki carries you with her deeper and deeper. SDCU takes on baffling cultural matters with an engaging directness.
Cons: Too baggy particularly around the end and could benefit from pruning, sharpening and general revision. The dance? Fun, but too long.
Jess Latowicki performs Made in China’s new show on a set made up of an over-fluffy carpet, a calming waterfall backdrop, and, we are soon to discover, a camera providing us with a live-stream of the performance, beamed to a screen above her head. This intriguing idea veers from illuminating to overused in a show both razor-sharp and baggy.
Super Duper Close Up instantly hooks: Latowicki is a powerful presence and her (at-first) strident monotone and stock gestures create a gripping atmosphere around her delivery. She begins to tell us about her friends’ wedding and the niceties of their social media image manipulation, and proceeds to the nightmare of Instagram scrolling, internet-related information overload, Alzheimer’s anxiety, anxiety in general, perceptions of success and body image reflected unhealthily on our screens and the distracted mind of the millennial. And that’s only some of it.
It is refreshing to see a show which simply aims to take on such pressing but difficult problems (especially for younger people) head on, with no apologies and with a certain desperate rawness. This rawness matters as well, given that the show is also concerned with how we perceive women’s anger and how they can respond to the male-centric gaze of the socially-networked society. As the camera increasingly tracks our storyteller, ever-closer, evermore intrusively, the uncomfortable duplicity of the audience becomes obvious. We are witnesses looking for ‘entertainment’, powerless but following along behind as Latowicki apparently begins to lose control.
When Latowicki’s remoteness begins to descend into a series of cross-cutting fragments, like multiple tabs on a browser, her performance gains a depth and a vulnerability which feels truthful and is definitely troubling and unnerving. Everyone will recognise that split-mind and split-personality which so many options, narratives and images are being thrown at you, potentially, every second of every day.
But the show begins to lose its firm and gripping discipline and economy, and wanders too far and too widely. I’ll just say this about the filmed dance: nice, but too long. The monologue’s splintering into different recurring narratives is effective, but the concluding 20 minutes or so also give up compactness and humour for a more unfocused style of both writing and performance which mostly did not feel as effective.
There were moments of risk-taking and incorporation of media which I wished had gone further. While the writing is sharp and very involving, Made in China seemed to me to promise a show involving many different attempts at grappling with the issues at hand. Finally, it seemed that too much was placed merely on the shoulders of monologue and performer, at the expense of other theatrical possibilities. There was some wonderfully uncomfortable game-playing and risk-taking with the audience, and the use of live film is good and promises more.
There are shortcomings, but anyone interested in what it’s like to be an angry young woman will find the show worth it. Indeed anyone dealing with an ever-more exhausting, bewildering and inhuman landscape of fakery, screens and other black mirrors will not regret it if they go and engage with what Latowicki and Made in China are doing.
Creator: Jess Latowicki
Dramaturg: Tim Cowbury
Producer: Beckie Darlington
Music and Sound Design: Tom Parkinson
Choreographer: Irene Cioini
Box Office:020 3111 0570
Booking Link: https://theyardtheatre.co.uk/theatre/events/super-duper-close-up/?spektrix_bounce=true
Booking Until: 24th November 2018