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:
Is Travis Alabanza the future of theatre? - Guardian