DramaLondonReview

Dreamsick – Camden People’s Theatre, London 

Reviewer: Chris Lilly.

 Writer and Director: Nat Norland

The actor is Nat Norland ( they/them). The actor is wearing badly fitting white motorcycle leathers and a full-face helmet. The actor has a projector, which tells the audience that they are trying to be a building.

They try different ways to be a building. The projected slides comment on the actor’s serial failures to become a building. It is sort of funny. They take off their helmet and tell stories about a girl who saw an angel, about A. G. Rizzoli, an architect in San Francisco, who draws portraits of people as buildings and his mother as a cathedral, about visiting the girl in Los Angeles as she works her way up the corporate ladder towards a berth on an Elon Musk rocket to Mars, about holidays in Suffolk and becoming intensely involved with derelict churches. . They ask us to draw some other audience member as a building on small cards they put on our seats.. They take off their leathers and do a very awkward dance in an ankle length dress. They drink coffee from a cafetiere. They put their leathers on again. They take the audience’s drawings and spend a very long time carving them with a craft knife. They set up a little frame with a light behind it and project silhouettes of our cut up drawings onto the wall. The performance sort of stops.

Somewhere in there, Nat Norland is talking about alienation and dissociation. Somewhere in there they are talking about biographical storytelling and authenticity and the artificiality of performance. The awkwardness and lack of polish is possibly a gesture towards the authentic. Everything takes a long time. Nothing is terribly consequential. It is dream-like and strange but it isn’t particularly engaging. At one point the actor comments that other people’s dreams are never very interesting, and that would appear to be true.

The question the performance wants to raise is ‘When a performance gets more polished, does it become less true? If the telling is shambolic, does it become more authentic?’ It’s a question that is worth considering. Just not for 90 minutes, perhaps. Nat Norland doesn’t commit to an answer. Dreamsick isn’t that kind of show.

There is a considerable degree of courage involved in standing on a stage and being so exposed, so vulnerable. The end result may be a touch nebulous, but it succeeds on its own terms, it makes the points it wants to make, it leaves the audience thinking about the questions the show raises. So, not for everyone, but not without integrity or point.

Runs until 3 December 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Shambolic, self-conscious, surreal.

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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