Inviting us into an office adorned with a giant map of Australia and piles of unfinished scripts and screenplays, Clare Pickering embarks on the energetic and meandering story of her life. The premise of this one-woman show from Late Bloomers Production is both touching and intriguing: Pickering is going to explain how the loss of her father led her to become a writer. Unfortunately, muddled storytelling, unnecessary autobiographical detail and meta-theatrical divergences all detract considerably from the warmth at the heart of her performance.
The honest description of Pickering’s relationship with her parents is the highlight of the performance, and I would have liked to have seen more about the family interactions which she demonstrates imaginatively.
A never-wavering smile doesn’t quite hide Pickering’s nervous stage presence and her delivery fails to settle into a comfortable tone. She veers between sounding like a public service announcement about the dangers dementia and a children’s TV presenter relentlessly reliving their youth. Although Pickering presents a generally likeable character, the misjudged structure of the piece results in several sections coming across as pure self-indulgence, especially the extensive demonstration of bit-parts she had played in her quest to be an actress and her repeated conversations with God.
The honest description of Pickering’s relationship with her parents is the highlight of the performance, and I would have liked to have seen more about the family interactions which she demonstrates imaginatively. When Clare relaxes into serious moments, she is far more engaging than in the frequently forced comedy. Mourning, caring and dementia are all often-neglected topics well worth discussing and occasionally Pickering finds a phrase or action that avoids sentimentality and describes her experience with poignancy.
As her first solo performance, this is clearly a cathartic and personal experience that Pickering feels the need to share. Although it is a brave piece, I can’t help feeling it would be better just told as a simple story, without the distractions of erratic lighting cues and the red lines of plane journeys drawn across the map of Australia.