Conversations With Myself

It’s fifty years since the Stonewall riots sparked off the movement that became known as gay liberation. Since then the moral climate has changed, but still leaves many marginalised and feeling misunderstood and unwelcome. Conversations With Myself juxtaposes the event with the enduring issues in a beautifully crafted piece of theatre by The Cambridge Mask Collective in conjunction with Sync or Swim.

A beautifully crafted piece

Nikki (Jenet Le Lacheur) is struggling to come to terms with being transgender. As the pressures build up from many sides their best friend, Gino (Luke Daniels), decides to throw a party. He hopes to provide some light relief to cheer them up. Initially, all goes well, but as the evening progresses the guests become less appealing and entrenched ideas begin to sour the air. While they can be sent back home with the door shut behind them, the uninvited guests in Nikki’s head will not go away and cannot be locked out.

Daniels is the dominant force in the action, ushering characters in and out and almost escorting Nikki through the tormenting journey. He moves deftly, using twisting gestures and devising poses that accentuate the script and that can be comedic one moment and harrowing the next. Gin Minelli and Freya Warsi, present in the movement sequences, clearly revel in their roles as New Yorkers at the party, engaging in amusing bouts of stereotypical Christian Fundamentalist and Italian/Jewish conversation, complete with eccentric masks, that clearly resonated with many of us in the audience. The contrasting tragedy is left to Lacheur, who with great reserve portrays the inner suffering and anguish Nikki is experiencing.

The work was co-created by Odette Baber Straw and Leopold Benedict who has performed and studied in both France and the UK and has just graduated from Cambridge University. The French and wider European influences are clear throughout, with physical theatre, movement, mime, mask work and text combining forms and traditions found in Commedia dell’arte, Le Coq and cabaret. The blend is visually powerful and creates an evening of variety that allows for mirth and pathos which the cast fully exploits.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Plunge into the depths of the mind in this innovative mask piece. Nicholas returns home from a long day on Wall Street. He tries to liberate himself from his unexplained anguish, but what ails him so? All options seem exhausted until Gino arrives, and convinces him to host a party. Nicholas changes to greet the guests, but those arriving are in fact the demons of his mind. One by one, they renew the crisis. Inebriated, the night spirals beyond his control. Hell is empty. The devils are here. ‘Threat... Mania... I was completely captivated’ **** (Tab).

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