There is a long history of female performers and theatre-makers who mine their personal experience to create autobiographical monologues exploring their (female) identity. Katrina Quinn’s Individual Medley is another example. But don’t expect feminist discourse, dense critiques of patriarchy, hymns to motherhood or performance art. This show is much simpler than that. Quinn cut her teeth writing and performing poetry here in Brighton while at university, so it is perhaps no surprise that her first full length show is essentially poetic. What does come as a surprise is that it is also full-on physical theatre. If you think the marriage of these two is likely to end up as a car crash, on this occasion you would be wrong.
A gentle and engaging memoir that deserves an audience
Quinn tells us the autobiographical tale of her move from Basingstoke to Zambia as a young teenager in language that is cleverly rhythmic and full of rhyme and assonance, without ever being slavish to the form. In parallel with this, she tells the story of her love for swimming, and her skill at it, with impressive and precise physicality. Both body and words flow simultaneously, often approaching dance.
Katrina’s family moved to Zambia when she is 12 and she had to start her life again: fitting in, forming friendships, and coping with the strangeness of being at a religious boarding school in the bush. Her love of swimming is both a blessing and a curse: Is it racist to swim if only the white students use the pool? The vagaries of progressing through her teens, liking the right kind of music, wanting to be like everyone else, and receiving the attentions of the opposite sex – both wanted and unwanted – are all dealt with here, culminating in her first kiss at 18. And her first social breakthrough is realising that she can pass for a dancer at the school disco by performing adapted swimming moves. It is easy to cringe at our younger selves, but Katrina does not judge her teenage self harshly. Rather, there is a note of affection, tempered by honesty and humour.
Individual Medley is a gentle and engaging memoir that deserves an audience. As a swimmer, Katrina exists half in and half out of the water. This is an apt metaphor for a girl suffering from exposure to too many social environments, destined to become a living example of the constant traveller for whom nowhere feels quite like home.