My Name is Dorothy

Fri 3rd – Sat 18th August 2018

reviews

Tamzin Kerslake

at 09:19 on 14th Aug 2018

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‘My Name is Dorothy’ is a new piece of theatre devised by Crossbow Collective for their debut at the Fringe. The play follows the life, or what we know of it, of Dorothy Lawrence, as she embarks on a quest to be a British journalist at the front line. Disguised as a soldier, she works for three weeks on the front line before being discovered, leading to interrogation and a ban from journalism. It is only through her censored book that we learn of her experiences, brought to the stage by two budding and talented creatives.

The warnings for traumatic scenes and nudity were unnecessary in my opinion. We are greeted by two characters dressed in clowning mime-artist costumes. Through a gramophone soundtrack and a kooky Charleston, we are transported back to the time of WWI and a coughing Churchill tells Britain that we shall be going to war. The way both actors created the singular man highlighted how these two worked incredibly well together. However, a few slip ups in dialogue showed that a little extra polish was needed to really elevate their use of these techniques. This was especially true of the mirroring, which needed clearer synchronisation.

Through multiple different techniques, we are taken along with Dorothy as she tackles her way to Paris. A wonderful use of shadow puppetry and physical theatre creates the journey. Other great moments of montage include the discovery of a “female, a British female, on the front line, who is sick?!” whereby the two actors slickly work their way through the army hierarchy. One should note that, although this is a quick montage, a senior office would not be addressed in such a manner, and the inclusion of correct titles or salutes would have added a more refined accuracy.

This piece does not go as dark as it warns. This is not a critique at all - I was quite content with the understated moments of darkness brought to us through narration and physical theatre. I enjoyed this way of story-telling; putting a new twist on an historical tale.

This is a strong debut performance for Crossbow Collective. They are not afraid to mix-up and break the rules of theatre with an eclectic use of genre and technique. With a few more rehearsals to polish off sections of movement and dialogue, their ratings would soar. Keep your eyes peeled - this is an exciting company to watch out for.

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Siobhan Stack-Maddox

at 11:57 on 14th Aug 2018

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"I want to tell the truth" Dorothy Lawrence declared. Displaying incredible bravery and courage, Lawrence disguised herself as a soldier and headed off to France to document the reality of events from the First World War's frontline. The book recounting her experiences, which she wrote upon her return, was heavily censored. she never received recognition of her services to journalism, and was banned from the profession after being discovered in France.

Crossbow Collective's 'My Name is Dorothy' brings to life the "truth" of Lawrence's own story in a highly original and innovative way. Duo Drew Rafton and Delphine Bueche employ a mixed theatrical medium throughout a series of vignettes, playing the heroine herself as well as the rest of the characters in her story. Their clown-like white face paint and slapstick dance routines to a contemporary gramophone soundtrack bring a light humour to the performance. However, at other points, these surreal comedic elements also serve to establish a sense of gravity, highlighting the perversity of the electric shock treatment soldiers received and Lawrence's harassment by male army members.

Both vocally and physically, Rafton and Bueche work well together on stage, creating an effective dynamic as they tell Lawrence's story. The mirroring scene in which Lawrence examines her new soldier's haircut was particularly touching. Both give very strong performances but Rafton stood out for me, with his impressive range of accents as he assumed different roles throughout, and his animated facial expressions perfectly suiting the clowning scenes.

Lawrence's journey across Europe on her bicycle is represented through physical theatre and intricate models projected against a screen. The piece combines thoughtful creativity, staging and choreography such as this throughout. The production has a charming, rustic feel, with the actors engaging with the audience and carrying out all set and costume changes themselves on stage. Lawrence choosing her soldier's uniform becomes a catwalk scene through the aisle of the audience's seats, with audience members invited to feel the material of the soldier's coat, creating both humour and intimacy.

The performance's cyclical structure, which sees the opening lines repeated in the closing scene, effectively creates poignancy and invites the audience to reflect. This ingenious production displays a great deal of imagination and has inspired me to read Lawrence's book myself.

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