“Thank you for having me. I mean, not having me…At least not yet.” As Emilia Stawicki begins her show, making her way round the audience and hitting on anyone who maintains eye contact, she manages to be both wildly uncomfortable and unfathomably confident.
Armed with only an education in jazz hands and Sondheim, and some serious Catholic guilt, Emilia takes us on a (very relatable) journey to discover what she wants romantically and sexually, and, of course, to answer that ever popular, make-you-want-to-punch-people-in-the-face question, “So why are you single?”
As with a lot of funny people, Emilia’s love life has been less with the wild sexy romances and more of a succession of gentle humiliations- dates ending in a firm handshake, or indeed a realisation that the other person is verifiably insane. It’s clear this is pretty much autobiographical, small measures of artistic licence aside, and being so vulnerable with an audience of strangers, there is, no doubt, a great capacity for humiliation. It’s lucky then that Emilia has such a talent for comic timing and story-telling, instead making the whole audience feel like her best buds on a night out with their funny friend.
With little by way of props or production, barring a flip chart with some key words spelled out nice and big, and a tiny crucifix hung on the back wall, Emilia carries the entire show with masterful physicality and delivery. In fact, her facial expressions are so descriptive, she could easily do the whole thing sat still in the middle of the stage, moving only her eyebrows.
As with all good comedy, there is a strand of sincerity which comes a little too suddenly, giving the audience no time to shake themselves out of the easy laughter generated over the past forty-five minutes. Regardless, we’re only really meditating on the serious for a moment or two before Stawicki swings back in to comedy at full force.
At only an hour, there isn’t really time for the mind to wonder, nonetheless the narrative could do with a little excess trimmed off. Even so, this is a great performance from a brilliant performer. I look forward to telling people I saw her when she was just starting out.
Made From Love’s portrayal of the almost madness that a couple go through when they find themselves in a position of unplanned pregnancy is, at times, raw and honest. Matthew Coulton and Linn Johansson’s devised piece explores their journey in a shared stream of consciousness; they allow the audience in on their panic and although this sometimes came across as a little disjointed, there were flashes of true humanity which were awe-inspiring. With moments of physical theatre scattered between rap, voiceovers, ventriloquism and genuine moments of profound stillness and honesty, the play carries the audience through the couple’s whole process as they work their way through the decision of whether they should keep their baby or to have an abortion.
Coulton and Johansson shone in moments where they broke away from the hectic atmosphere that the play inherited. It was the times that they they stood still and spoke freely to one another that captured the true meaning of the piece, and this was done brilliantly. There was a real vulnerability in this stillness which was heart-breaking and showed a great deal of skill and commitment from the actors. This was mirrored in them remaining bare foot throughout the performance, suggesting further their vulnerability and connection to the earth and each other. Unfortunately, these moments were too few and far between and the contrast between these moments and the rest of the play was vast.
The pair try to do too much at once, without allowing the play to explore any angle that it tried to go down. Perhaps this was their intention; to show the nonsensical nature of thought when it comes to such an important decision, but this wasn’t made clear enough to be effective. The moments portraying madness were short and loud, including a shrieking wig in a Jerry Springer interpretation and an Artuadian-esque breaking of a biscuit into a microphone, acting as a potential metaphor for a miscarriage. These moments were, it seemed, intentionally harrowing and confusing, but with each moment of ‘madness’ Coulton and Johansson adopted a new technique, leaving the show feeling uneven and unfinished.
The set was minimalistic, with a doll’s house placed in the centre of the stage and two microphones. The doll’s house was used as a seat, a prop store and also, perhaps, a representation of how small and meaningless the material world is when you are faced with the creation of another life. If the latter was the intention, they did not allow this to develop or use the prop to its full potential, again, leaving the play feeling unfinished. There is a quite beautiful moment where the actors brought white balloons with a small light into them onto the stage. It was clear that there was thought behind this moment, but it was explained in a heavy metaphor that provoked intrigue, but didn’t make enough sense, or seem relevant to the show.
Made From Love is brave, and at times heartbreakingly raw, but it feels as if it has been put together without any clear narrative arc which left it feeling manic and unfinished.