Review: Come As You Are Scratch Night
Written by ExTS Reviewer Rebekah Horton
Come As You Are is a festival of performances that explore into the themes and issues surrounding gender identity. It is presented by Camden People's Theatre and is a celebration of LGBT, non-binary, trans and gender queer theatre and performers. The first event I attended was a scratch night that presented new work from Megan Chapman and Libby Norman.
In terms of genre, this was a dramatic piece and I found it interesting that both Megan and Libby performed different styles of theatre. Megan's performance felt deeply personal with her audience, as she shared her poetry about Brexit, living in Cornwall, her experiences of being a lesbian and trying for a baby.
The stage was minimal with only a microphone stand and a single spotlight, creating an intimate atmosphere. This had helped to create the dramatic tension as the themes of gender identity is complicated because everyone experiences it in many unique ways. This also reminded me of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads, where one of his monologues 'A chip in the sugar' explored his experiences of coming out as gay. Megan's poetry was performed in rhythmic beat and I enjoyed the flow of her performance and her use of her hand gestures. This reminded me of Shakespeare's use of rhythm when he used iambic pentameter in his creative work.
Libby Norman's performance was more physical and challenged the themes of being true to yourself and queer stereotypes by using Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty. Libby conveyed this by tying herself to a piece of metal from a car and dancing to a sad love song. I felt that this was symbolic of feeling trapped and a form of punishment for being true to yourself. This scene left the audience in silence because we were not sure what would happen next. This made the scene both effective and powerful because of it’s experimental, uncomfortable nature taken from the Theatre of Cruelty.
Libby wore all black and I felt this was metaphoric for the emotion of feeling trapped and the fear of losing your identity because of the unfair pressures of society and stereotypes. Her performance featured the song “Fernando” by ABBA which added a comedic effect when she re-enacted Cher’s performance but with another piece of metal as her lover. I felt that using metal as a prop was a metaphor for society's pressure on people to find true love, and it linked with the fear of rejection for being different.
Both Megan and Libby's different methods of performance reflected on today's society because they were thought-provoking and deeply experimental in presenting symbolisms through music and props. They presented both their personal experiences and the unfair treatment that many people have to experience because of being seen as different.