Abby’s life is not a happy one. She’s left home because she just can’t get on with her Mum. Her Nan, the person she’s closest to, gets dementia and then dies. She gets fired from her boring, soulless job as a telephonist. She drinks too much and wakes up not remembering how the strange, married man has ended up in her bed. Not exactly the recipe for an evening’s entertainment – but don’t let that synopsis put you off – this is a superb, uplifting and very original piece of theatre.
As the audience enter the auditorium, Lotte Rice who plays Abby in Exactly Like You is already on stage (this is becoming a trend in modern theatre) sitting on the floor with a bottle of Jack Daniels and writing in what could possibly be her diary. It’s a simple set with just a single chair and some tall, abstract objects that seem to be a combination of shelving and lighting. The house lights dim and Abby faces the audience, looks them fearlessly right in the eye and proceeds to tell her story.
The piece which is just under an hour long is written by Rice and she tells Abby’s tale with a mixture of poetry, prose, rhyme, rhythm and even a touch of rap. It’s a highly original style and the rhymes rattle along bouncing off each other at great pace, pinging around like a pinball machine, with cascading cadences of internal rhymes swooping along almost without pause for breath. As well as being a superb wordsmith, Rice is athletic, balletic and full of boundless kinetic energy – and she can sing too which she does along with the songs of Nina Simone. Her Nan who had a marvellously eclectic taste in music which she got from shamelessly borrowing albums from friends and neighbours of all ages and various musical tastes, has turned Abby on to the music of The High Priestess of Soul and she conjures up her idol when she needs comfort, help or just some simple inspiration. Abby not only talks to Simone but sings along to recordings such as “Mississippi Goodam” when she’s feeling down and afraid and needs some motherly advice.
Abby’s is a sometimes sad and poignant story but also incredibly uplifting and life-affirming and Rice goes through the emotions at a tremendous tempo, sometimes in tears, sometimes with laughter but always with great dexterity. And on top of that she had to compete with the noise from a nearby bar and trains rumbling above as they made their very noisy way in and out of Waterloo station; maybe this is the one time we could have done with a train strike!
Exactly Like You is a triumph in both the writing and the performance and Rice carries off them equally with great aplomb. It’s a real tour de force and as part of the very successful (judging by last night’s crowd) Vaults Festival, deserves to sell-out every performance – go before it’s too late – it’s a triumph.
Review by Alan Fitter
Lost in a lonely city, a young woman conjures up a dialogue with one of the twentieth century’s most inspiring figures, Nina Simone. Forced into an uncomfortable reckoning she is guided out of the darkness by the High Priestess of Soul. Blending theatre, spoken word and the songs of Simone, this ambitious piece of storytelling was praised by critics at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. Directed by Fringe First Award-winner Kirsty Patrick Ward (Chef, by Sabrina Mahfouz) and performed by outstanding new talent Lotte Rice, it’s an electrifying one-woman show that is driven by poetry and bubbling with wit.
Exactly Like You is a deeply personal piece about the power of role models, including the ones that you have never met, to get you through the dark times. Performer and writer Lotte Rice has teamed up with director Kirsty Patrick Ward to tell the story of a girl who loses her grandmother. It is the ghost of Nina Simone, an icon whom Abbie and her grandmother both love, who drags Abbie out of her loneliness and grief. Rice’s story is a poignant look at how music can become your best companion, and at what one single song can mean for different people.
Booking to 29th January 2017