Danielle (Elle, to you) is a young woman living with her family on the 10th floor of a block of flats; she works at the local fast-food restaurant with a host of interesting characters. One day, posh-girl Eve walks in, and everything changes. Elle grapples with this new connection, her feelings for Eve, and what this means for her.
From the moment she starts speaking, Lauryn Redding (writer, composer, and sole performer) holds the audience in the palm of her hand. She oozes natural charisma and we are charmed by her for the entirety of the performance. Not only does Redding come across as exceptionally likeable, she inhabits the stage as if it's her own home – Bryony Shanahan's fantastic direction and Yandass Ndlovu's moment direction have Redding jumping from space to space with chaotic energy, but we never once feel unsettled or confused as each moment is moved to with comforting confidence. In a large auditorium, Redding connects with each audience member as if they were the only one in the room.
Redding's writing of this piece is truly sublime – the way she plays with language and spoken-word to craft moments of poignancy, devastation, discomfort, joy, passion, and love, is nothing short of masterful. We are transported through settings, characters, and emotions, and we feel everything she feels as we hold her hand on this journey through her past – Redding creates a visceral collage of emotion that is felt tangibly by everyone in the room. Whether you identify as queer or not, you come away from this performance changed and seen, as through her writing she powerfully demonstrates that a queer experience is, ultimately, a human experience.
The balance between brash fast-paced comedy and the stillness of tense scenes is perfect. Juxtaposing high energy with moments of deep soulful music, Redding leads the audience through this beautiful and surprising story where the emotional beats are reflected in the music, somehow also written and composed by Redding (with additional composition by Alexandra Faye Braithwaite). She picks up various guitars throughout the show as if they are merely extensions of herself, creating her own ambience in real-time, as she displays even more creative talent.
This talent doesn't stop there, and it is Redding's performance of her own work that takes this show to yet another level: she's also an incredible singer, actress, a master of physical comedy (at this point the level of talent becomes almost unnecessary, but is gratefully received!), and she transitions between an array of different characters with brilliant ease – she somehow manages to create vivid and dynamic scenes while being the only one on stage. However, the vulnerability of her performance is completely breathtaking. There is an emotional connection to her words, lyrics, and music that feels almost spiritual, enhanced further still by stunning lighting design from Mark Distin Webster. It is as if she shares part of her soul with us – the rawest, most relatable elements of what it means to live, to hurt, to love.
This piece of theatre is nothing short of pure artistry and needs to be shared with the world!
Only running at the Lyric until Saturday 30th September, catch it if you can. Tickets from £13: here.
Review: Penny Lane