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You Heard Me | Battersea Arts Centre

Five minutes into the show and the whole story has been told. A woman walks onto a stage and announces that she was raped when on a run, the next forty-five minutes is a one-person dramatic interpretation of the emotional trauma left behind.

Not a lot can be said for the script for there was not a lot of it. We were welcomed to the space and informed it was a relaxed performance with a chill out room available should anyone need it. The rest of the dialogue was little more than a two minute voice note played over the speakers. The recording told us that she liked to go for a run before a show and one time this lead to a traumatic experience.

I feel that had this encounter have lasted the duration of the show, there could have been more of a journey for the audience. We could have gone through the joy of the jog, the uncertainty of someone else appearing, the fear of the attack and the emotional regulation of coming to terms with this horrendous ordeal. Unfortunately as we were told all of this so early on, it meant we waited until the end of the show to hear "I'm okay". This meant that there was no time for an audience journey, there was no plot arch or character development.

Instead of making the attack the premise of the play, the duration was spent on her emotional response to it. There were extremely long moments of what I can only describe as parkour, going around the stage on a moveable block of stairs. Which, alongside an inflatable pillow and balloon, was the entire set.

There were long periods of running around to music that felt improvised - particularly as most ended with her nodding to the tech crew for the next lighting cue. Also, "go" was said before each loud noise. On the one hand, this is a comforting access inclusion for audiences to prepare themselves. However, this felt like a happy coincidence as the tech crew had no other way of know when to begin that track.

My highlight of the show has to be the lighting design. It speaks volumes that I believe the show could exist with the lighting alone, rather than with the actress alone. The spotlights, use of fading and timing provided more emotional stimulation than anything else in the show. The use of light to guide the audiences eye and force focus was very well done. This alone provided an ability to immerse myself in the black box theatre space and engage somewhat with the show.

The score was mildly confusing also, we started with ACDC's back in black while the rest of the show is rain sounds and slow music taken from a sleep meditation app. I wasn't sure what it was supposed to add, other than something to listen to rather than the panting of someone running around the stage. Other sound cues included the aforementioned short monologue which was very often repeated in cut up or distorted chunks. While this was initially effective as a display of reliving the trauma, it was overused and therefore became quickly ineffective.

The same could be said for the costume, which included sports wear, jeans and a yellow dress. All of which were frequently swapped around on stage. The only pattern I detected for this was the costume changed depending on how hot the performer was, rather than its relation to the character or scene. Almost as a cliché, the exact outfit at the start was only seen again at the end to attempt at a cyclical narrative. This cliché alongside the overdramatic version of stage running and moments speaking directly to the audience lowered my ability to engage fully with this piece. I drag myself away from memories of GCSE drama lessons.

In total, it felt like a final performance after a series of drama therapy sessions. I left wondering if each chunk of the show was a different exploration in a therapy session and they were slotted together for the show. There was little creative design, thought or development that held my attention. I feel that should this have been the stimulus for a play I would see the potential to expand and explore, but this as a final product was not enough for me.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Eastside


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