A short and beguiling piece of theatre,
Carmella Brown’s monologue about a good friend confessing his three-year long silent love for her is heartfelt and painfully real.
We open in a small, gallery-like space: a flickering television, geometrically abstract sculpture, Caravaggio’s Narcissus. An attendant explains the painting with enthusiasm. He makes the artwork clear, too clear, and is interrupted by dancers and other speakers. They tell stories about lust and love, betrayal and acceptance. At times they gang up on each other, at others they speak in perfect synchronicity. Are they part of the same self or they engaging in extreme self-searching? The answer is not immediately apparent; it’s probable that they are both. Although finally labelled as Faith, Hope and Love, our anonymous trio don’t really suit these names. We need time to get under the skin of these characters and concepts – we feel responsibility to reconcile the play’s own self – but everything is over before we get a chance to.
Van Tricht’s writing is never bad, although it is sometimes painfully self-aware – Alexander Wilson applies the same analysis to his own performance as he does to Caravaggio, in what feels like a postdramatic interlude from a bad Martin Crimp play. Other moments are shot through with real beauty though: Carmella Brown’s monologue about a good friend confessing his three-year long silent love for her is heartfelt and painfully real.
Unquestionably, the stars of the show are Sophia Young and Tom Gadie, who perform Kate Burke’s choreography with breathless, passionate anger. Or perhaps it is love that motivates their movements; sharp yet fluid, supportive yet destructive. It is often difficult to tell as van Tricht and Crompton carefully tread the fine line between ambiguity and frustration. The self, or piece of theatre, that they conjure is redundantly aware of its own incompleteness. One wonders if the production would withstand the rigours of the scrutiny applied to Caravaggio; one suspects that it wouldn’t.
As Thyself is an intriguing piece of contemporary performance that nevertheless doesn’t say as much as it thinks it does. It makes bold statements and provides bold images; its length means that we can never quite piece them together and they remain only remnants of a greater whole.