Monday, 22 February 2021

REVIEW: Outside, live streamed from The Space, Isle of Dogs, London

At the moment the title ‘Outside’ is in itself enough to catch your eye. But this is not an early entry in what will surely be a wave of Covid-related dramas in the coming months. In this case, it concerns Willa, who hasn’t ever left her house until now. For 30 years, each moment of her life has been controlled, and she’s spent every night locked in her room. Now, she finds herself in a witness questioning suite, searching for evidence of her existence. 

The monologue is both written and performed by Gabrielle MacPherson. We discover her in a room full of books and papers on which she draws in an attempt to make some sort of sense of her existence. She is looking for clues about her here and now as well as her personal history. What has brought her to this room at this time? The visible disorder of its contents leaves little hope that this mess can be sorted out during our brief visit to her world. 

As she talks it is clear she may not be a wholly reliable witness. She is on edge and often distracted. Early on in the proceedings, she tells us, with no flicker of any sort of emotion, about disposing of a cat in a bin. This shocks us and establishes that no holds are barred in the further tales of her history that might emerge. Through her, we live through her traumas and abuse. But the bleakness of both the scenario and her story are lightened by Willa’s charm, confidence and self-awareness.

Having a character suddenly exposed to the world whilst having previously been forced to live in isolation is a fairly well-trodden path, particularly in film. Think of Room, The Village or, for a comic take on the same theme, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I’m not sure this iteration takes us anywhere new. But in an impressive live solo performance, it does deliver in ways that are uniquely powerful. It can’t compete with the always compelling atmosphere that comes with being at The Space for a production and the voices on the Dictaphone and loudspeaker weren’t entirely audible. But MacPherson’s presence and energy gave the piece life and come close to creating something like the experience of live theatre. 

Review by John Charles 

Rating: ★★★ 

Seat: Online | Price of ticket: £10
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