Review: How (not) to make it britpop

This Life
A special performance, funded by Southwark LGBT network, and including guest appearences from some of Rosie’s old bandmates and a panel discussion on autobiography in art with Rosie Wilby, Nick Field and Brian Lobel, and chaired by Jane Czyzselska (Diva).

The atmospheric Southwark Playhouse, with it’s exposed brick-lined arches, dark moody ambiance and classic Blur pumping through the sound system wafting into the auditorium, was the perfect setting for this nostalgic trip that takes the audience winding gently back to the cultural oasis of the late 90s.

Wilby’s effortless story-telling through a clever but comfortable mix of comedy, song and photography, weaves through clear narrative that offers plenty of opportunity to place ourselves right back into the era alongside our protagonist.

Familiar events, recognisable music, motifs and modes ensure that whilst envisaging Rosie as a Brit Pop wannabe, we are simultaneously casting our minds back to our own similar desires and depressions of the time – well perhaps that was just my teenage self.

The catharsis, the process of gazing back as such a recent period of British history and culture is part of the selfmockery brought to life as the tale unfolds. We are invited to laugh at the trials of the young Rosie, and in doing so at our own younger selves, with a sense of satisfaction that things are better now.

And now is the time for Wilby to be telling her story of desire and loss. It is the moment of the art of autobiography, the published self and the nostalgia kaleidescopes we are all turning towards to escape a current dissatisfaction of the state of things.

These themes were explored in the panel discussion after the show. Under the overarching theme of the ‘limitations of going public’ in autobiographical art. Nick reflected on the measure of success in conveying story as when after the show the audience are keen to come and share their own personal stories. That this indicates a real sense of intimacy between the performer and the audience, a connection that encourages the audience to want to confess also.

Brian talked about the use of cancer not only as a story telling mechanism but a means to create intimacy and build trust in the ‘unique space of the performance’ in particular the solo shows where there are no distractions and nothing to break the connection of performer and audience. The audience are being led by the performer, giving themselves to the performer’s journey.

Wilby brought in the concept of the ‘malleable memory’ and the issue of distrust between what was actually experienced and how it is remembered, and how these can be triggered by the likes of music. The use of photos in Wilby’s show are there to bring some truth into the story as well as contrast to the memory being shared.

The issue of autobiography including other people’s lives, memories and stories and whether their consent and approval is required was covered, alongside an acknowledgement that a performer can own their story and that in this world of self publishing every mundanity of our lives no one really has control of where their story travels with unprecendented reach, where it is trendy and topical to make public the act of talking about other people.

Within this, there is the concept of how much of ourselves we reveal and in what spaces, how much of a character of self is created, and how important the LGBT identity is within this – and not just whether it is directly relevant to the story. In autobiography, we are revealing all aspects of who we are. However, the LGBT dimension can influence not only who the audience is, but also create a desire of the performer to not alienate the audience.

The panel discussion is to be broadcast on Rosie’s radio show ‘Out in South London’ which is broadcast on Resonance
104.4 FM

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