Writer and Performer: Jolie Booth
Our local history tends to focus on the gentry or the famous, but just as fascinating, in fact often more so, is the history of those who slip under the radar.
In Jolie Booth’s ‘extra-live’ version of her one-woman show,Hip, she recounts the real-life story of Brighton woman, Anne Clarke, who died alone in a Brighton flat now being used as a squat.
The audience is assembled outside the Marlborough Pub and Theatre and told to imagine we are actually outside the squat above an Anne Summers store. We’re instructed to enter ‘the squat’ quietly to avoid alerting the authorities. Inside the theatre, we’re seated in the round as if in the squats living room. Booth then proceeds to unravel the tale of Anne’s life, a woman who died alone in the flat. What is left behind when a person is forgotten and alone, how is their story told and shared? Slowly Booth pieces together the fragments of the previous occupants life, drawing us into a deeply personal story as the two women’s lives intertwine.
There’s a sense of camaraderie in the room as we’re invited to invoke the spirit of Anne, to share vegan cheese and pineapple on sticks, and to journey into the woman’s letters and diaries. It may seem voyeuristic at first but there’s a sense that this is a life that should be recorded, remembered and recounted.
For non-Brightonians, some of the local resonance is lost, but there is enough universality here to allow connection. In the fringe environment and under time constraint, the story is, sadly, cut short and we only get to scratch the surface, but after an hour in the company of Booth we feel we know Annie well and are happy to raise a glass to her memory.
Booth’s engaging style and easy rapport with the audience holds the piece together and its testiment to the strength of her storytelling skills that we are kept laughing and engaged throughout. An inventive and important exploration of local oral history.
Runs until 11 May 2016 | Image: Contributed