Are You Lonesome Tonight
  • By Kyung Oh
  • |
  • 6th Aug 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★

This one-woman show begins with a deluge of diagnoses handed out to the audience members by the performer. We are numbers, personality types rattled off from a list she has acquired and memorised from a mystical astrological black box unknown to us. She goes around telling us: “You are a natural leader … you are artistic … you find it difficult to focus for a long time.” When audience members “umm” and “ahh” at these unsolicited pronouncements, unwilling to be put in such boxes, Ellie Stamp has other algorithms to apply, to break down our personalities.

Well-informed by the research of neuroscientists, the show is informative without being didactic in tone.

Stamp takes a poignant, novel approach to respond to the litany of one-minute quizzes barraging social media today (‘What type of coffee are you?’). She dismantles the now too systematised and unreflective approach we have acquired, of handing out medical labels, stamping each other as having this or that ‘condition,’ ‘mental illness’ or ‘disorder’. Children say they want to be a helicopter, or a volcano, or Batman when they grow up. Even in adulthood, we play, have obsessions and collect things, so how can anybody so confidently articulate where this line is, between a medically defined ‘delusion’, and an imaginative thought?

Stamp centres her show around a character who thinks she is the love-child of Elvis. She beams up images of her parents’ early lives, and tells stories about the couple’s unhappy marriage, thereby joining up the dots to prove how plausible it is that her mother had an extra-marital affair with the King. She plays old recordings of Elvis’s performances and interviews, which skip and fuzz and cut off at inconvenient moments. These recordings demonstrate that what to one mind might just be incomprehensible data - white noise, a skipping record - another mind might pay close attention to, and extract meaning, to fully imagine how an interview or a performance might have sounded.

Well-informed by the research of neuroscientists, the show is informative without being didactic in tone. It is successful because the audience are left to draw their own conclusions. At the same time, it has bursts of entertainment (she dances magnificently to Hound Dog for example) and the show climaxes in a lovely song that embraces keeping an open mind towards all types of individuals and personalities. It has a bit of a slow start, but once it gets going, it becomes a very touching, successful show.

Reviews by Kyung Oh

Underbelly, Cowgate

Before Us

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Men in the Cities

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Years to the Day

★★
theSpace on Niddry St

Can't Stay Away!

Summerhall

Snoutology for Beginners

★★★★
C venues - C

The Road to Skibbereen

★★★★★

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Ellie Stamp was told that she is the secret love child of Elvis. Since then she has been trying to discover how and why delusional beliefs occur. Are You Lonesome Tonight is a solo interactive performance, created with neuroscientist research partners and based on true events. It utilises Ellie's skills in immersive theatre, game play, visual imagery and music to examine current methodology used to define and measure madness. She invites the audience to explore her lineage to The King by playing with nine numbers that fascinated Sir Issac Newton, Pythagoras and Elvis.

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