The audience is a vital part of live theatre. Their presence contributes to the atmosphere of a space, and ultimately a performance itself. This was certainly the case for Carly Fernandez’s Concha, at Brixton House, where the audience’s laughter and verbal responses to the action were as much a part of the show as the actual work onstage.
Concha is a semi-autobiographical show following queer and trans Concha (Fernandez) who, on discovering they have chlamydia, must inform their recent sexual partners. Throughout the show, Concha is our presenter, protagonist, and teacher. Their confessional moments, asides from the action in the scenes that play out, bring us closer to them and invite us to invest in them and our relationship.
The show contains one live performer and eight voiceover artists. The liveness of Fernandez’s performance was vital to the audience’s relationship with them, made strong through their ability to improvise and play off the atmosphere in the room. The presence of other voices on stage offered a sense of community and togetherness as they were often a vehicle through which Concha could dissect moments of prejudice. Many of the voiceover characters were explicitly prejudiced, offering Concha the opportunity to respond with dialogue that intended to educate. Whilst these moments clearly resonated with members of the audience – as proven by frequent verbal responses and murmurs of agreement and support – they could have been further developed. With more vocal characterisation, or a creative, physical embodiment of these characters onstage, action could be interrogated more engagingly, adding to the humour that was generated by earlier moments in the script.
The production felt like a collage: part lecture, part play, part comedy sketch, with pop up images underpinning jokes riffing on current politics, videos, and more. These elements were interesting and worked to engage the audience on various levels; they eased them in with comedy to later strike them with moments of severity. At times it was as if the audience were in Concha’s brain, and these various dynamics surprised and stimulated them. The almost ‘Ted Talk’ style moments were particularly engaging. However, at the same time, these competing elements also meant the performance lacked a consistency. This would have helped improve delivery, but instead the action felt muddled and confused, leaving the audience uncertain as to the exact arc of the narrative.
A more focused production style and materials would benefit the development of the show, which will meet more audiences at Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August. The show intends to ‘explore[…] the queer experience’ – which is a necessary but broad exploration, and the moments of Concha which were most powerful were those that explored specific elements to the character’s Latinx culture and experiences of language. Through refinement, this vibrant production can further impact the audiences it has already begun to in Brixton.
Written and performed by: Carly Fernandez
Directed by: Manisha Sondhi
Produced by: Olivia Crawford
Concha has completed its current run at Brixton House Theatre. It will be playing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 5 – 20 August. Further information can be found here.