Now Entering Ely, Nevada – The Space, London

Reviewer: Serafina Cusack

Writer: Daniel Camou

Director: Sophia Hail

Daniel Camou doesn’t remember much about his childhood, but he remembers his summers in Ely, an old copper mining town in East Nevada. And with precise and enveloping immersive theatre he helps the audience remember it too. Now Entering Ely, Nevada is a feast for all the senses and is nostalgia-core storytelling at its finest.

Camou, who is both the playwright and the sole performer, exudes confidence. From the moment we enter the space, he tells us exactly where we are and instructs the audience to set up the stage with him, using his southwestern charm to transform the audience into guests of his family home. We learn Ely is downwind of the Nevada test site, where hundreds of nuclear bombs were detonated, and caused the death of many due to the resulting cancer clusters. Daniel explains that the compensation for this, received decades later, allowed his grandmother to buy a rickety two-bed house in Ely where he, and 17 of his family members, would spend their long, idyllic summers.

The following two hours weave together a sensory tapestry of Ely. It is expertly crafted, and nothing is missed. The smell of pine as you enter the room, the dirt beneath your bare feet, the campfire picnic of Spanish sandwiches, Budweiser and takis, the ever-rumbling soundscape by Sam Tannenbaum and the rhythmic lighting by Ferdy Emmet, all work in perfect harmony to create a nostalgia for a place the audience are unlikely to have ever visited.

The story itself sometimes falls secondary to the joyful reliving of memory. There is a metaphor missed in the long-lasting effects of being downwind of radioactivity and the lasting effects of being a child witnessing abuse. In his writing, Camou understands the link between his maternal grandfather’s abuse and his father’s but the introspection stops there and he fails to interrogate his own position in it as a now fully-grown man.
Camou’s storytelling, while evocative, leans heavily on explicit emotional front-loading, missing opportunities to allow the intricate relationships to unfold naturally.

Nonetheless, Camou’s confidence as a performer and storyteller shines throughout, guiding the audience through the intimate corners of Ely. Now Entering Ely, Nevada is a testament to the potency of nostalgia, albeit one that occasionally sidesteps the complexities it could delve into. As the lights dim and the echoes of Ely fade, the audience is left with a bittersweet longing for a town they have never known.

Runs until 28th October 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Sublime sesnsory storytelling

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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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