This is the fourth dramatic work by playwright, published writer and performer Caterina Incisa, and it’s premiere in London following development and performance in Montreal.
Funny, poignant and well observed, the quality of writing sets this work apart from the others that use the somewhat hackneyed premise ‘millennial coming to grips with life’ as the basis of their narrative. Incisa has created a fully populated milieu of rounded characters to illustrate a multi-faceted story. Credit is also due to dramaturge Jesse Strong and the Montreal Young Creators Unit.
Surrounded by fast food detritus in a flat in contemporary London, with its authentic touches of hand me down furniture and heavily laden airing racks, we meet Jess (played by the writer herself), newly single and struggling with self-loathing. The play is part monologue, part drama, as Incisa takes on the roles of characters in Jess’s life, all well-intentioned and often sympathetic, but all missing the mark in their attempts to reach out to this troubled young woman.
We see her variously as a nude model in a life drawing class (Jo Wright’s costume design here is hilarious), venting noisily at her annoying friend Poppy and patronised by her mansplaining therapist. One senses all these supporting characters have complete if tacit, story arcs of their own. Incisa plays each as a distinct individual, often in dialogue with Jess and each other, and only afterwards does it hit home what an incredible feat of concentration the actor has pulled off.
Director Anna Marshal keeps the pace brisk and full of movement, utilising a non-traditional performing area well. Sound design and music by Wilfred Petherbridge, and intelligent use of simple lighting changes, frame Jess’s descent into panic and despair.
Gradually, Jess’s backstory comes out, and the mood of the piece darkens. We see the tragedy that thrust her prematurely into adulthood and meet the loving father, his own grief echoing like barely heard thunder. Her controlling ex is denied a name, but is ever-present.
Loudest of all is her own inner narrative, hateful and destructive. This voice becomes ever more insistent as she stumbles through increasingly desperate strategies to silence her demons. Lusting after her GP and fantasizing about a brave death, she suffers excruciating embarrassment during a chance encounter in his waiting room.
She has a meltdown at a therapy group, (where she plays four characters in one scene) and it appears that she has finally lost it. The cathartic reveal, when it comes, is simple and elegant, as the real Jess emerges, hidden in plain sight. And then there is a dark final twist.
Playing out a love story between super-ego and id, Jess is a triumph, a revealing hero of her age. An assured, hilarious and terrifying performance from an emerging playwright and rising star. One to watch out for.
Review by Laura Thomas
Goblin. Troll. Pathetic. These are some of the ways Jess describes herself. This solo tragicomedy follows Jess as she makes ill-advised and embarrassing attempts to “love” herself. It’s rip-your-heart-out-sad and piss-yourself-funny, and for anyone who’s ever looked in the mirror and wanted to vom.
0 DAYS WITHOUT CRYING
9TH, 10TH & 11TH APRIL 2018
LANDOR_SPACE (ABOVE THE LANDOR PUB)
70 LANDOR ROAD
LONDON SW9 9PH