Taking some artistic liberty with what little is known of Marie Berthe-Cazin, In Clay is the story of this little-known artist's life, love and work but above all else, it is the story of finding joy in creativity.


Taking a comfortable seat, the first thing that greets you is a slightly unusual setting that is predominantly styled after a studio workspace, exceptionally lit in a warm comforting wash that is homely with a slight rolling mist that adds character without dominating. A high-quality start setting the bar for the evening.


The musical company of Matt Herbert, Josh Cottell, Daniel Kemshell, Auguste Janonyte and Oliver Copeland play the audience in, easing us into the performance and Janonyte just takes the stand-out position for me with some of the smoothest violin playing I have seen in a long time. This musical introduction settles and engages in equal measure and with a smooth transition Rosalind Ford playing Marie Berthe-Cazon takes to the stage and the performance proper begins.


It takes little time from her taking the stage to see that Ford is wonderful in the role. The tale is a one-person piece told through direct address interspersed with song and with captivating stage presence and vocal ability at no point is the lack of accompanying cast felt. Ford seems to fit the role so fully that she could almost be lost in it and at times you could be forgiven for believing that it was Berthe-Cazon herself in the room with us.


There is little time to spare before the musical element of the show begins and as it does, something becomes very apparent; this show has been finely crafted to the finest detail. There are a lot things to say about In Clay that are good but it's the sum of all its parts that makes it great. The score, the music, the performance, the setting, the direction, every part of the show works and more than that; works together.


There are, of course, some moments that stand out more than others and rarely have I experienced a production that brings tears to my eyes in one moment and raises the hairs on the back of my neck and arms in another but In Clay manages this and more.


There are a couple of minor elements that I think jar slightly, for example at one point some ropes are lowered from the ceiling and works of art are hung off them for dramatic effect in a way that breaks the unity of the setting, but these are so minor as to be almost not worth mention.


While the story itself is faintly reminiscent of that of Margaret and Walter Keane and the ‘Big Eyes' paintings, the telling of Berthe-Cazon's own life and experiences by Rebecca Simmonds and Jack Miles is truly an experience. There are many shows heralded as ‘not to be missed' but In Clay may go so far as to not only ‘not be missed' but to be enjoyed more than once.


Accompanied by a curated exhibition of ceramic work by female artists that is not to be missed, In Clay is showing at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until the 7th of April. Tickets: here.


Review: Damien Russell        Photo: FelixMosse