EFR - Reviews of Kiss me and you will see how important I am

Kiss me and you will see how important I am

Sat 18th – Mon 27th August 2012

reviews

Lise McNally

at 01:26 on 19th Aug 2012

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‘Kiss Me And You Will See How Important I Am’ is a beautiful and brave production, but rather like its four young protagonists, it doesn’t seem to know who it is.

Eva O’Connor writes and stars as Alex, a young woman struggling with severe depression, who has been given a part-blessing, part-curse in the form of a diagnosis. Her illness labelled, her condition medicated, she has become, in her own words, “a well trained hamster on anti-depressants”, and something inside her is fighting mad about it. The audience is initially welcomed by her as a form of talking therapy, but as Alex drags three companions into the spotlight, the play begins to probe the rigid limits of what defines mental stability, and asks, what’s in a label? Maybe the world is "mad".

O’Connor’s performance is truthful and devastating: her large, heavily made up eyes stare directly at the audience with a bold brilliance that dares them to judge her if they can. She delivers her own lines with a dead-pan force, bringing full life to the power of the script - a script which is notably poetic even in ugliness - while also actualising fully on the comic potential of her brilliant, brutal character.

Her fellow cast members do not let her down. Rob Neumark-Jones (as Alex’s ex-boyfriend) has a powerfully strong presence, whose balled fists and set jaw promise a danger from within, and Daniel Cummins (Chris) is frankly astounding. A sensitive, finely tuned portrayal of a young man on the autistic spectrum, Cummins’ performance is both wonderfully funny and greatly moving. As a company, the four actors bring life and energy to a script which, with its largely monologuing format, might slip into a stop-start static rhythm. Instead, the cast creates a piece which is fluid and powerful, darkly and disturbingly funny, and from which every laugh, twinge of guilt, or thud of recognition is fully drawn out from a helpless audience: Sophie Fuller’s direction is merciless.

However, despite the undeniable talent evident on script and stage, ‘Kiss Me’ as a whole fails to do justice to itself. The promised “physical theatre” boils down to two dance scenes, only one of which is justified. The other, rather clumsily introduced with a “come on, dance with me”, detracts from the realism of the piece without giving anything back. Similarly, while the script shines brightly as a series of monologues and dialogues, as a whole piece its purpose gets a little lost. Does it ask for empathy, or challenge our right to empathise? Why is the audience welcomed in, only to be reviled for its presence? The play tries to do too much, and in doing so, undoes itself. Its impact is immediate, but isolated and fragmentary: one-liners and single movements make far more of an impression than the piece in its entirety.

The emotional journey of ‘Kiss me’ is well-earned and wide ranging, but it doesn’t ‘go’ anywhere. That said, if the play’s purpose gets a little lost, the talent of the cast and poetic power of the script give the play the kiss it needs, allowing us to recognise it for what it is: important.

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Thomas Brada

at 11:11 on 19th Aug 2012

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'Kiss Me and You Will See How Important I Am', is a complicated play which manages to squeeze into its short running time some deep issues and troubling performances. As soon as the main character, Alex, informs the audience that the title of the piece is a line of poetry written by that happiest of campers, Sylvia Plath, it is clear that the piece is going to tend towards the darker end of the spectrum. The plot revolves around a group of four young and rather damaged individuals, each with their own set of mental issues and emotional baggage. From the beginning, the play sets out to challenge theatrical conventions in a rather conventional way, which nonetheless succeeds in engaging with the audience. In metatheatrical mode, the audience are constantly referred to, scowled at and directly addressed. This interactive role which the audience is forced to play is a clever device which implicates them uncomfortably as part of what the characters perceive to be the major problem. The key device which the show employs is simple but effective. Each character is given their own ten minutes of prominence in which they address the audience from a microphone at the side of the stage. These ten minutes function as some very public therapy in which the audience are constantly reminded to quietly observe but not judge. This concept of judgement is what the whole piece focuses on. Each character has their own set of issues; depression, body insecurity, sexual confusion, but it is how their issues are perceived by other people which really troubles them. The first character on stage, Alex (Eve O Connor) is an ethereal creature, simultaneously troubled and troubling. Her issues with depression stem from her unusual relationships with her friend Cleo (Elspeth Mckeever) and ex boyfriend James (Robert Newmark Jones) who join her on stage and gradually begin to parade their own emotional baggage for all to see. Cleo and Alex at first seem to be the most stable characters in the piece, but as their personal issues come out, it is the recently homosexual and socially autistic brother of Cleo, Alex (Daniel Cummins) who surprisingly comes to the fore as the most affable and even the most normal character in the whole play. His issues are grounded more firmly in reality and his social discomfort is endearing, whereas the other characters parade their problems with a curious sense of confidence. The performances and plot of the show are both particularly impressive, yet the single fault I could find lies in the odd attempt to incorporate what I (probably wrongly) perceived as contemporary dance. At the emotional climax of two particular scenes, the actors begin a flurry of complex moves which, whilst impressive, do nothing to enhance the audience's understanding of the play and actually detract from the moving performances which have just occurred. That being said, Kiss Me is a very engaging piece of theatre which challenges some very poignant contemporary issues with an impressive degree of sarcasm, subtlety and skill.

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