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My Dead at Barons Court Theatre

A play about a woman and people in general’s connection to their dead ancestors sounds quite intriguing. And Carolyn Hartvigsen tackles this highly relatable concept through her autobiographical play, My Dead. She discovers who her various relatives were through uncovered letters, and is shocked by what she finds. Like discovering her great-great-great grandmother from Norway who was possibly of Sami descent. Dealing with truths she has already known; she is particularly disturbed by the fact that her great-great-grandparents moved to Mexico to legally practice polygamy. She alludes to the fact that she grew up in, what I inferred to be, the Mormon church, and that the history of polygamy was always disturbing to her. She also makes the audience aware that in her faith it is believed that marriages transcend death. Meaning a widow/er is still technically married. This makes her view her great-grandmother’s marriage as slightly polygamous as well. All the stories Hartvigsen reflects upon end up guiding her throughout her painful relationship with a widower, known as The Frenchman.

My Dead at Barons Court Theatre
My Dead at Barons Court Theatre.

I was really excited to attend this play because I frequently find myself wishing for more knowledge of my ancestors and relating to some of what I do know. But even though the concept of My Dead is fresh and interesting the execution is subpar. I left quite frustrated and disappointed, because there was such potential for this to be an insightful look into Hartvigsen’s life and how everyone can learn from their ancestors. Frankly, I wanted to leave after about 25 minutes. It was just awkward. And the quick-paced changing of emotions, which I think was supposed to be quirky and funny, left me confused about what the intention was and how different relatives were connected. Also, the Sámi heritage of Hartvigsen’s great-great-great grandmother is interesting but then is only brushed over in the beginning.

I really think My Dead has a good foundation and it felt so close to being what I think was intended, but right now it’s missing the mark. This started as a 25-minute thesis project, and it feels simply extended but not connected. There are lots of good parts directly related to the main theme that could’ve been elaborated upon further, and others that seem irrelevant but were given more time. My Dead seems like a promising rough draft but needs to be improved upon.

2 gold stars

Review by Elisabeth Beer

I hope they were buddies in life because they are certainly buddies in death.

My Dead is the story of a woman who finds her life through her dead. Uncovering letters and autobiographies from her deceased grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents, and even great-great-great grandparents, she is shocked to discover her ancestors from England, Wales, Scotland, Norway, Denmark, and Mexico are passing down shared experiences that will alter the course of her life… leading her to ask: “My Dead. Do I really know them?

My Dead
Below the Curtain’s Up Pub
28a Comeragh Road
London W14 9HR

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