Last Updated on 12th July 2022
Paul T Davies reviews Alice d’Lumiere in her new show Speaking Out and Fitting In at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester.
Performance poet, burlesque performer, ariel artist and downright all-around thought provoker of all things gender fluid, Alice d’Lumiere’s new show does what it says in the title. Finding your voice and fitting into society is central to the show’s playful experience of walking on both sides of the gender divide, observing life as both male and female, experiencing people’s reactions. From the restrictions of being a sensible businesswoman squeezed into a man spreading train, sensible shoes and professional dress, to a glorious finale atop a Christmas tree, layers are peeled off, changed, adopted, exploring the many aspects of femininity.
The fourth wall is removed, a variety of voices lead us though Alice’s many experiences, the poetry funny and on point, the rhythm of the text on the commuter train echoing Night Mail, Auden’s classic poem. Shimmering blue dress gives way to burlesque sensuality, director and teacher Angelica Bangs placing Alice confidently on an arial hoop, a skill learnt especially for this show. It’s impressive and, yes, fluid, and the show really starts to fly, finding a confident sashay into differing social situations, halted only by the retelling of a nasty drunk man groping Alice in a pub. Many moments require us to pause and think about the female experience.
Composer Tina Gooding provides a score that perfectly chimes with the material, although the recorded voiceovers were a little quiet. This didn’t distract too much, however, from a show that, for me, had two main strengths. The first is the voice itself. Alice and her male counterpart, Darren Gooding, explore many voices in the search for her own, there’s a terrific Eddie Izzard riff that also shows great impressionist skills too! Alice’s voice is gentle, polite, but is no less powerful, proving that a voice doesn’t need to rage to have a great impact. The second point is kindness. It’s a show created with care and compassion, and we feel welcomed into it, the house lights always at half so Alice can speak to us directly, so much so that we fit in from the moment the play starts. Her next work will feature opera. I can’t wait!