Stacy is greeting us as we come into the Marlborough Theatre’s cosy, pink, womb-like theatre space. She’s wearing a radio mic, but there’s also (80s pop) music playing, so her words are only just audible, which is rather nice – a kind of murmuring undercurrent. Everyone gets a hug or a smile or a wave or a few words. She’s like an excited puppy greeting her family’s homecoming.

cytotec buy online no prescription So now we’re all seated and she prevaricates before getting up onto the stage, musing on the separation of performer and audience intrinsic to theatre and performance – no matter how interactive or intimate a piece is, she (the performer) is in one role and we (the audience) is in a different role. This is something important to acknowledge, and I like her for it. It’s hard to get up there, to cross the divide.étudiant.html Cut! The music stops and she introduces herself and the theme for the night. She’s here because she wants us all – together – to learn that we don’t need to play it small. We can be bigger, better, louder, prouder. She tells us that her estranged father mistakenly called her ‘Tracy’ – and then gets us singing along to Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car. I’m possibly the only person in the audience who doesn’t know the words, but as we get to sing it five or six times throughout the evening, and as she has a karaoke version on video for us, I get to learn it. We do all learn, together, not to play it small, to give it all you’ve got – and by the time we’re on our last take, the audience is standing and leaping and singing at the top of their voices. Vesper Time is an odd and interesting mix. Her ‘evening prayer’ is a reflection on ageing, and specifically on doing it and saying it before it’s too late; on male role models and the need for father figures (real or imaginary – gods, heroes, or mere mortals); and on the perils of obsessing on revenge and regret.

She manages, skilfully, with a firm grasp on the dramaturgy, to weave together reflections on Moby Dick, the ultimate exploration of masculinity, peppered with homoerotic desire; stories from her own childhood, marked by the departure of her father and the arrival of her ‘uncle’ Leo; and some deliciously blasphemous fantasies about God the Father. Holding it all together are the constantly recurring threads of the Tracy Chapman sing-a-long, and a stated desire to change her little red slippers into a pair of multi-coloured glittery platforms under her chair. Again and again she tries and stops herself, defeated…

We don’t just get to sing – we also get to greet the person next to us (like you do in church these days) with a great big ‘Aloha – Ai Yai’, and to write down the thing we really need to say to someone before it’s too late – a declaration of love, an apology – these all fed into an American-style mailbox on the side of the stage (Stacy was born in Hawaii but lived her early adulthood in mainland America). Inevitably, we learn of instances in Stacy’s life when she’s left it too late – sometimes just by a whisker, learning of a death just days before of the person she needs to tell ‘ I love you, you were there for me’.

Vesper Time, like previous work by Stacy Makishi, weaves together engaging and warm verbal storytelling informed by her experience in stand-up comedy (with a bit of street preacher thrown in); video clips from TV and movies (Demi Moore! Moby Dick!); and a simple but effective scenography, the white dress complemented by white sheets hung from hooks that reference the sails of a ship. These ‘sails’ are the screen for her film clips. There are choreographic sections that give us  sculptural images of birth and death, the hanging cloths becoming a bundled baby, then a shroud, then – as she dons her black-framed glasses over the shroud – an evocation of The Invisible Man (to my eyes anyway – aware that this is a reference that might mean very little to anyone under 40).

She ends – of course! – by donning the platform shoes and revelling in her decision not to play it small – to go for big, tall, brave, wild. The packed house includes a lot of teenage and young adult students, who are all on their feet cheering and whooping. ‘That’s the best thing I’ve seen – ever’ I hear as they exit, smiling and excited.

Vesper Time describes itself as a ‘secular prayer’ and it does feel like a quasi-religious communion has taken place. You leave feeling that you’ve been nurtured and nourished – that you haven’t just witnessed someone else’s story of the fight for liberation and self-expression, but have been made complicit in the united desire for a better world in which we can all grow to our full potential – no rivalry, no competition, just everyone doing their best and being their best version of themselves. Wow! What more is there?

Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior is the editor of Total Theatre Magazine, and is also a performer, writer, dramaturg and choreographer/director working in theatre, dance, installation and outdoor arts. Under the auspices of her alter-ego Dorothy’s Shoes she creates performance work that both honours and usurps the traditions of popular dance and theatre, and plays with the relationship between performer and audience. Much of her work is sited in public spaces or in venues other than regular theatres. She also writes essays and stories, some of which are published and some of which languish in bottom drawers – and she teaches drama, dance and creative non-fiction writing.

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