“a well-crafted piece of theatrical storytelling … nourishing, and created with a great deal of heart and soul”
Eating Myself is an autobiographical/confessional monologue, written and performed by Pepa Duarte. Pepa is Peruvian, and the storytelling centres around her preparation of a hearty Peruvian soup. She chops and stirs and adds ingredients, and all the while the big soup tureen sits on the hob bubbling away. It is a visceral and frequently painful piece which, for the most part, examines Pepa’s deeply troubling relationship with food, but also leads to an exploration of her relationship with her female identity and, finally, a deeper understanding and celebration of her Peruvian heritage. In live performance, the slowly-cooking soup would clearly provide a kind of aromatic underscore, which would frequently be in sharp sensual counterpoint to the self-imposed culinary controls and deprivations Pepa re-enacts.
Unlike some other online theatrical experiences which have been available during the pandemic – most notably Jermyn Street Theatre’s 15 Heroines – Eating Myself is clearly a live show filmed, as opposed to a piece created for the small screen. It was ably filmed using more than one camera, meaning that cuts and close-ups enhanced our streaming experience, and Tom Sochas’ composition and sound design also served the experience well, as did the wonderful creative costume elements. Ultimately though, it was impossible not to want more, and to yearn to be breathing the same air and sharing the same smells and space as the performer, especially one as naturally engaging as Pepa, who invites intimacy, and exudes warmth. She is also a very expressive physical artist, and uses her body with grace, power and beauty throughout.
Certain sections of the script could use a bit of an edit – the show would benefit from being 10 minutes shorter – but this was a well-crafted piece of theatrical storytelling, and, like the soup at its centre, nourishing, and created with a great deal of heart and soul.
“The candypop colours fizz and zing and feel alive with fun and possibility”
Since U Been Gone is an autobiographical piece, in which Teddy Lamb intertwines stories of personal grief and loss with their own ongoing journey of self-discovery and self-definition. Teddy tells the story, with a live underscore performed on the electric guitar by Nicol Parkinson – quietly resplendent in a fabulous silver frock – with whom they share a stage. Teddy is a charming and engaging performer, with a gentle touch, who establishes a sense of warm intimacy with the audience immediately. Their words are direct and honest – as this type of show demands – but are occasionally shot through with beautiful currents of unexpected poetry. They are also, at points, extremely funny. (Put it this way, no-one who sees this show will every hear Eminem’s Lose Yourself in the same way again!).
Pete Butler (Set Designer) and Zia Bergin-Holly (Lighting Designer) have made the show look gorgeous, with a palette reminiscent of a 1960s TV set. The candypop colours fizz and zing and feel alive with fun and possibility, which serves at different times as both emphasis and ironic counterpoint to the narrative. For the most part, Billy Barrett (Director), wisely lets Teddy tell us the story without too much directorial intervention, and the few more obviously choreographed moments are well-placed, helping to give the words extra pace and texture when they need it. The live underscore is wonderful throughout, and the occasional moments in which Nicol Parkinson subtly sashays into the story, with a perfectly timed twang of the guitar, are just sublime.
This show is more than an intimate audience with an engaging performer, however. Teddy Lamb’s cleverly crafted text shines a light on the difficulties that beset gender-queer people on a daily basis in our society. Our non-binary and trans brothers and sisters encounter hostility and aggression in every aspect of their lives almost continually, and it behoves us all to step up and do better. One of the things we can all start with is pronoun awareness. Early on in the show, Teddy explains that, unlike the ‘strong, soft, comfortable’ feeling the pronoun ‘they’ gives, ‘he’ ‘feels like wearing an uncomfortable beige suit’. Which begs the question: why should anyone feel uncomfortable in what they wear, when clothes should allow us to dance?