22 April 2019
Standing Too Close...is too many things at once, says Marina Johnson
I am standing in a crowd of people feeling utterly alone and tired.
My legs are made of rock, and the soles of my feet burn with fire. That's a metaphor.
If you are going to ask people to stand for an hour, you have to give them something to stand for.
I want to commend the show for pushing the boundaries of what counts as spoken word, songwriting, drama and gig theatre, but I don’t think they were successful at challenging the form. If anything, for me the show highlighted the flaws inherent in the system; those of self-indulgence, bias and ableism. Making the audience stand changes the way the invest in the show. They are not hiding in the anonymity of an auditorium, we are standing too close in the dark. We are much more active participants in the spectacle of spectating.
So, what were we offered in exchange? We were offered our white-boy-philosopher protagonist chasing his inhuman manic-pixie-dream-girl, who “did this to him”. The soothing and awkwardly charismatic performance of Jack Chamberlain makes it weirdly palatable to swallow the plot, as much as there is.
At points we get a glimpse behind the flawless-hero facade, and an insight into anxiety or using alcohol as a coping mechanism, but that interesting moment is snached away. Just when a call to revise the shitty visa system would be appropriate, we get another well trodden metaphor about how space makes you feel insignificant.
There is an rawness and honesty about the trials of the – do we like each other, or like-like each other – baby steps into relationships, and it works well as a sweet sad show for young-romantics.
I’m not sure I would even call this show gig theatre. In my mind it fits much more easily into poetry with a guitar soundtrack, the music seemed to me more of an afterthought accompaniment, rather than a key part of the show. The poetry seems to interrupt the songs and the songs feel like they would work better as an album or EP.
Image credit: Beatrice Debney