LONELINESS

I Tried To Fuck Up The System But None Of My Friends Texted Me Back // Travis Alabanza

In the the Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room at the end of an intense festival weekend, the audience experienced this work through headphones, pre-made recordings, mime, audience interaction, dance and the combing of hair. Intimacy was referenced and we were given an insight into the artists’ thoughts through headphones that place Alabanza ‘inside’ your head. We were on the London Underground. A woman was crying. A man tried to comfort her. It felt better. 

Alabanza narrates dimensions of loneliness. It’s in the soles of your feet, it’s compassion verses danger, it’s failure and perfection and it’s about fear of people you don’t know. Their voice is strangely comforting as they talk to us about texting and everyone being on a podium. They talk to us about how they cried on the Underground after a friend died and no one helped. London is ranked as one of the loneliest cities in the world, and loneliness is about a lack of connection or communication with other people or animals. It can be felt even when you’re surrounded by other people.

Gradually, throughout the piece the audience were able to decide to join in: to dance, to be a human sculpture, to comfort people. The show ended with someone from the audience combing Alabanza’s hair, just as their Mum used to. This was loneliness and togetherness as an epic, multi layered and multi-sensory experience. The piece discussed chronic loneliness, but somehow by the end I felt, as many of the audience seemed to, as though we’d shared something together. This, as Alabanza explains, is a way to fuck up the system and to make a change. 

- Gini Simpson

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Travis Alabanza

Is Travis Alabanza the future of theatre? - Guardian

Loneliness Lab

Samaritans (UK)

Humans of Greater London

Hope Hunt and the Ascension into Lazarus // Oona Doherty

The audience hubbub subsides as a clapped-out old car with a bin bag taped over the front passenger side window revs up to just in front of Vooruit, its shell suited occupants diving out to fall to the floor. From the car blasts out music, lyrics suggesting the Northern Irish origin and Belfast base of the artist. People crane their heads in the drizzle to see over the shoulders of people in front of them, and the two who tumbled from the car continue to dance.

This street scene makes sense as the place where the piece begins. It reminds me of the earlier days of teenage licenses, aimless driving around and the blaring of music on suburban streets. Of brief furtive incursions into the city, from where you live to where it all happens. And then the car drives off, leaving the artist alone in the road with the reedy bass from the car fading off into the distance. This forlorn figure, angry in their loneliness, turns back to the crowd.  

Go inside the theatre! Go inside the theatre!’ they bellow.

Obligingly trudging up endless stairs and taking up seats, the solo movement which follows trips and wallows in the universal visual language of bored and disaffected men. Gender is the subject throughout, a physical and vocal cycling through anger, cockiness and vulnerability in language after language - from German to English to guttural cough. The transition from space to space is as smooth as the invisible seams between dialect shifts, suggesting perhaps a universal European anxiety, an illustration of a free movement of deprivation, forgetfulness and the rejection of empathy that prowls round the backs of our superficial wealth. 

The solo ends in rapturous choral form, before the back doors swing open to reveal the picture of the missing driver, long lost from the car and alone at a cheap folding table. Watching tinny football on a glowing laptop whilst drinking beer. It’s an image that could be snapped in any country in the world of an isolated man and the undocumented experience of small room unhappiness. The audience are invited to share a beer in the space of the stage, a social bond to be formed in the dim half-light from the sad picture behind. The move-down begins and ends in the slow shuffle of feet, with drinks clasped to our breasts like guards against feeling. The football plays on. 

-      Lewis Church

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Oona Doherty - Hope Hunt and the Ascension in Lazarus

Oona Doherty takes on Belfast’s Hardest Men - Irish Times

La danse virulente et poétique d’Oona Doherty - Le Monde (en Français)

The Crisis in Modern Masculinity - Guardian

A Tale of Two Masculinities - The New European

A DREAM OF DYING / Fake Escape Theatre

A DREAM OF DYING / Fake Escape Theatre

Life is just a matter of appropriate planning. A good life is a well ordered life. The fullest life is the most neatly divided life. Birth, school (“with outstanding grades”), a lucrative job, a beautiful wife, a spacious suburban house, grinning suburban children, early retirement, grinning suburban grandchildren, a cheerful death and a well peopled funeral. It’s so simple, so simply broken down.

THREE JUMPERS / Unearthed Theatre

THREE JUMPERS / Unearthed Theatre

A council worker watches on as a young man takes a running jump to throw himself off a bridge. He pulls back at the last moment. The young man, elegantly dressed, starts to converse with the dry witted street sweeper and the tone shifts. Things are revealed to be more complicated, as things often are. 

EVERY BRILLIANT THING / Paines Plough

EVERY BRILLIANT THING / Paines Plough

Every Brilliant Thing is a list made by a child attempting to make their mother feel better after an attempted suicide. As the child grows, so does the list. Jonny Donahoe performs Duncan Macmillan’s monologue which engages with the audience in hopes of spreading understanding about depression.

HOW (NOT) TO LIVE IN SUBURBIA / Annie Siddons

HOW (NOT) TO LIVE IN SUBURBIA / Annie Siddons

A black dog is perhaps a rather genteel metaphor for depression, particularly when compared to the flatulent walrus that Annie Siddons has chosen to represent the encroaching loneliness of her suburban dislocation. Loneliness is not the same as depression, as Siddons points out in the show, but the dog and walrus are wont to introduce each other when you’re vulnerable. They’re from the same stable and they go hand in hand in vast modern cities and their blurred edges. The trek from home to work, the length of the working day, the dislocation of communities from each other and the yawning gap between what you might have and want stretches us thin. 

STORIES TO TELL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT / Francesca Millican-Slater

STORIES TO TELL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT / Francesca Millican-Slater

Insomnia is a common problem – the NHS estimates that one in three people in the UK experience it regularly – and on the surface Millican-Slater's stories evoke the banal: one features a couple in a supermarket; another, a couple disturbed by the insistent loud music played by their neighbours after hours.

I'M DOING THIS FOR YOU / Haley McGee

I'M DOING THIS FOR YOU / Haley McGee

We get a balloon to blow up as we walk down into the theatre. We are offered vodka, laughing juice - the merriest of spirits, we are informed - by a woman in open-toed kitten heels, red dress and suicide-blonde hair with an overdose of makeup. We’re at a surprise party and she’s the host.