EFR - Reviews of Exactly Like You

Exactly Like You

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Olivia Cormack

at 08:59 on 19th Aug 2016

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Have you ever had that moment? That moment where a song comes on the radio, or plays quietly out of someone’s headphones on the train, or you even just see a few words of your favourite song written somewhere out of context, and then all of a sudden you are transported back to a certain time, with a certain person. ‘Exactly Like You’ is a one woman, high energy show by Lotte Rice about the power of that moment. Following the story of one woman as she grows up and deals with the various losses and confusions life brings along with it, this show combines rhythmic spoken word with snatches of song, mainly Nina Simone. If you’re not a fan of her now, you will be by the end - believe me.

The script is well-written, equal parts funny and sad, and evidently highly personal. Real tears run down Rice’s face from the first Nina Simone song. Not that the emotion behind the script ever hinders her performance - far from it. Rice is an expressive, comic and authentic performer, so accomplished that it takes me until halfway through the show to accept that she might actually be crying real tears, even whilst cracking jokes. Her stamina is frankly impressive, her performance is highly energetic, and her energy does not falter for a moment. At one point she even starts running on the spot, and manages to keep up the fast pace of her monologue.

Rice is evidently working with an accomplished team of directors and technicians. Music and lighting changes are cued perfectly and the stage design is simple but fitting - enough so that Rice can find a prop whenever she needs it, but not too much to make it feel crowded. Rice uses the space well, and isn’t afraid to extend her fictional world to the front row. Indeed, if you go to see this (which I highly recommend you do) avoid sitting in the front row unless you want to become part of the show.

This is a must-see and highly touching piece about the importance of having someone in your life who sees you exactly as you are - whether that be a relative, or a singer whose words keep going around in your head. ‘Exactly Like You’ will strike a chord with anyone who has ever felt lost, unsure, or even just very badly hungover.

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Ben Ray

at 09:56 on 19th Aug 2016

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“Oh, we set the turntables burning together”, says Lotte Rice, as she skips around the stage in a solid hour of performance poetry told entirely from memory. This line sums up ‘Exactly Like You’: a high energy, emotionally powerful story of Rice’s life in a mix of music and verse. We are thrown headfirst into her relationship with her grandmother, her discovery of Nina Simone, and her lesson of "no fear!".

The show seems to fizzle with life as Rice bounds about the stage, her impressive use of freeform verse managing to keep the story fresh and engaging. Indeed, I find myself unable to even look away for the entire hour. The poetry is interspersed with sophisticated use of Nina Simone’s music to illustrate her adventures - as she mutters along to Nina over the speakers, we begin to feel we are inside her very head.

The raw energy of the performance creates an intensity that I have rarely felt in other Fringe performances. Rice spins around madly and stumbles drunkenly at parties, questions the audience when puzzling over moral dilemmas, and lets tears roll down her cheeks when she finally faces up to her mother in the final scene. This is matched by a superb, minimalist set. Abstract towers of vinyl light up in response to the story’s requirements (when the police turn up, the whole back wall is illuminated in flashing blue). These create a discrete backdrop to an empty stage, which Rice so effortlessly commands. But, unsurprisingly in a show told entirely through freeform poetry, it is the language that truly lights up this show. Her grandmother is made of "corrugated skin", and Nina Simone’s hands "breathe soul into the room". How can someone not fall in love with a show, when it is told in such a stunningly beautiful way?

It is honestly difficult to find any criticism for such a faultless performance. Slick, polished and incredibly emotional, ‘Exactly Like You’ is a superb piece of theatre. When breaking out into her grandmother’s thick Irish brogue, a slight Jamaican twang does creep into a few of her words- but Rice’s otherwise flawless impression of her grandmother and Nina are so impressive that this is soon forgotten.

As Rice herself tells us, "time passes, as it does", and we are all too soon at the end of the performance, feeling slightly changed inside - and wishing we could go back to the beginning and see it all over again.

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