An abandoned party; a neglected bedroom; a cluttered AV desk. All of these labels could be attached to the strew of wires, sandbags, fabrics and lamps which greet us as we enter the space for All Of Me, writer and performer Caroline Horton’s latest collaboration with director Alex Swift. This one-woman show probes the internal and external repercussions of a mind and body living (just about) with depression - and just like the stage we find ourselves on, it is messy, stimulating and more than a little fantastical.
A sublime exploration of the discourse between death, depression and the drive to keep going
Horton’s hesitant, apologetic presence belies her undeniable magnetism as a performer. Initial greetings are delivered with the humility of a house-owner who has not tidied up before their guests have arrived, as we are informed of what has been changed, added or removed (whether truthfully or not) since the show’s previous incarnation. Moments of absurdist humour such as this punctuate the skin of the production throughout, allowing for some much needed breathing space around the openly dark subject matter. There is something wonderfully ‘anti’ about the acknowledgment of what has not been included in a production, particularly as this proves to not always be the case; the microphones and audio equipment which were supposedly onstage by accident soon become a pivotal part of separating and distorting the identities that Horton explores throughout the show. If Forced Entertainment offered mental health support, it would look a little like this.
Both disarmingly candid and impeccably self-aware, Horton relentlessly probes the line between being ‘okay’ and ‘not okay’ – when a formal introduction takes place, “as is polite”, it is in the form of a sing-song monologue that slowly spirals away from the usual facts about one’s upbringing or career, delving into deeper insecurities usually only revealed to more intimate acquaintances. This ongoing dance with our darker psyche is both figuratively and literally realised onstage, as club rhythms, Bowie-esque glamour and tribal ululations bring a fierce desperation to the search for a peaceful resolution. Contrast this with moments of absolute stillness amongst the mess, and the line no longer divides 'okay' and 'not okay' but something more fundamentally human; what it is to be alive, and how to embrace the possibility of the alternative.
As part of a wider conversation at this year's Fringe on sustaining and supporting the mental wellbeing of all who attend, it’s welcome to see a programme which lists useful contacts for anyone who is affected by the topics covered in this performance. For those who are interested in exploring the more avant-garde offerings of Summerhall, All Of Me is a sublime exploration of the discourse between death, depression and the drive to keep going which will strike a chord with punters and performers alike.