Do I Raise My Hand? – The Pen Theatre, London

Reviewer: Christine Stanton

Writer: Akin Wright

Director: Pam Farrugia

Temz doesn’t need therapy – he’s only been forced to attend the sessions by his dad and sister because they are intent on making life difficult for him. He refuses to talk, happy to spend each hour catching up on sleep instead. But over the course of his sessions, he slowly starts to open up and realises that there might be a benefit in talking about what’s on his mind after all.

Written and performed by Akin Wright, this one-man performance packs quite a punch in the 60-minute runtime. Wright is a likeable performer, showcasing snippets of vulnerability and emotion well as he progresses through the sessions with the unseen therapist. Initially, in the first 15 minutes or so, the character appears quite young, possibly school or college age, from their mannerisms and dialogue – admonishing his family for making him do this and beaming with pride about the poetry he writes. It’s only when he makes a reference to sixth form being 10 years ago that it’s clear he’s an adult which initially causes a bit of a disconnect between the writing and the character. It would be great if his age could be established earlier on to help mature the storyline and allow the audience to view his achievements and tribulations in a clearer light.

Wright establishes his character’s viewpoints throughout the performance – expressing his frustration about the fleeting media interest in the BLM movement, the distaste towards having to pick the political party that’s ‘less shit’, while still acknowledging his privileged Orpington upbringing to be able to pursue a career in poetry. These snippets into his mind allow the audience to easily connect with the character, understanding the motivations and inner demons that have led him to speaking up about his problems. While there is understandably a large focus on his mental health, as well as suicidal thoughts, Wright helps to balance out the heavier parts with humorous anecdotes about his poetry performances or warming sentiments towards his family.

The session number is projected onto the back wall throughout the performance, each one fantastically varying in length to benefit the pacing and delivery of the performance. Some are captured as long, emotive monologues, others a fleeting one-sentence outburst, and occasionally Temz doesn’t show at all – the empty chair speaking volumes for itself. The first six sessions would work better by having more segregation between each one as they all merge into each other initially, which halts the flow of the show slightly. The latter sessions do a much better job of establishing the timeline – sometimes with Wright leaving the stage, others simply with a quick lighting adjustment, but each with clearer start and end points.

The balance of humour that Wright uses within his script alongside the raw honesty behind the character’s emotions really helps to engage the audience during this endearing one-act show.

Runs Until 24 February 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Nicely Balanced

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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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