Batman (aka Naomi’s Death Show) – VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Andrew Houghton

Writer: Naomi Westerman

Director: Katharina Reinthaller

Batman (aka Naomi’s Death Show) is an incredibly personal story presented by writer and performer Naomi Westerman in collaboration with Nottingham-based theatre company Chronic Insanity. The production treads a very fine line, balancing light-hearted silliness with an emotionally devastating tale and which makes for a memorable experience.

The performance begins on slightly uncertain footing as Westerman enters from the wings to loud game-show style music. Whilst effectively establishing the show’s quirky style, this grand entrance feels slightly underwhelming due to a slightly awkward initial stage presence and the lack of support from a microphone.

A quick round of bingo gets the ball rolling and introduces the audience involvement which is critical to the show although the slightly rushed delivery allows uncertainty to linger amongst the audience. Further participation elements are explained, including bat-signals which can interrupt the show at any point, before Westerman takes a seat to begin her tale.

The transformation upon entering storytelling mode is astounding. Westerman completely captivates the room and the outside world dissolves as she recounts her experiences with a rawness, vulnerability and focus which is inescapable.

Complex familial relationships leading to a troubled teenage period and eventual parental loss makes for a heavy watch, made all the more harrowing by Westerman’s incredibly natural performance. It is therefore understandable why so many lighter participatory elements were built in earlier, to break up the emotional weight of the show.

Whilst the bat signal serves its function decently, further thought could perhaps go into encouraging/controlling its use. Audiences are likely to be over eager with the show-stop function initially, yet scared to disrupt the narrative as it becomes darker, which makes for an uneven balance overall.

Batman (aka Naomi’s Death Show) is an incredibly moving production which packs an honest and powerful emotional punch. Be prepared for this one to stay with you well after the lights rise.

Runs until 5 March 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Incredibly moving

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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