Directed by Nathan Evans
With a fake plane safety announcement opening this show started flat and I prayed we managed to get off the ground. The premise, worn out and only workable these days by the filth that is PamAnn could be jettisoned at take off with no harm to this curious and well wrought production.
Veronica Thompson takes us, via costumes, songs, burlesque, confessionals and video interludes on a journey across the experiences of women and of exploring quite who and what she is herself. American, of Korean decent, living in London, travelling the globe Thompson is a Citizen of the World, who travels as widely through identity and sexuality as they do time zones. What we are presented with is a wistful chimera of charm, someone who wants us to accept what we are presented with, before being surprised by transformation within twist, within pivot enveloping transformation. It’s a dizzy journey of tease and reveal, but with an intellectual deconstructive charge behind it and Thompsons comforting smile all the way.
It’s a collection of set pieces, which are woven together under the guise of a plane trip hopping around the world. This mostly works, although it’s a borderline clichéd line to hang off. Luckily the set pieces are strong enough to pull away from the annoying in-flight interruptions and each video examines some curious and crepuscular pressure to look or conform. We have a manic make up artist – the very triumph of sad self delusion, the wife of an Asian dictator in her gilded prison, killing on whim, before she is perhaps faced with the same fate, a jingoistic North Korean who is desperate and hungry, a lovely sharp piece about right-on folk’s casual racism & the assumptions of privilege and a video on the ongoing gentrification of Dalston which is ironically being made by an international artist who chooses to film there.
The monologues which segue into songs, some howls of rage which themselves morph into singing the triumphant song of the body electric, others sad melodies racked with pathos before transforming into self aware celebrations of destiny and identity are extraordinary, like the most fantastical Fado and it’s here that Thompson is at her strongest. Taking lived experience, honing it down and sharing both the light and dark sides of her thoughts. One song following Thompson career trajectory ends in a surreal combination of talents which is as life affirmative as it is cautionary, but it’s a mark of this show that each time you think you’ve reached a dark place, that Thompson pulls a shining rabbit of hope and optimistic opportunity out of the situation. This had the audience smiling and laughing out loud each time. It’s a great way to live and a superb way to perform on stage. Profound Burleque!
Did I like the show well… I had my reservations, although the airhostess makes good stage sense I felt that Thompson had more than enough bloody raw presence to be able to move, shunt, jump and leap across the divides of the various pieces and be able to connect them in a more vibrant and original way. I wanted her to jettison the character along with the uniform. What I loved was the performer and performance. Growling, prowling with more than a hint of menace I longed for some real interaction with the audience. I suspect Thompson has an untapped ability innate here, although I’ve no doubt of her ability to hold and keep an audiences attention- to interact with it, off script would be interesting. The trust and charm is there in abundance.
But that small gripe about staging aside, this show is engaging and honest. The combination of effective sound-scape, atmospheric lighting and a cool prop of a suitcase which is used with effect makes this a superb show about intersectionality, self construction via talent and ultimatly about belonging.
When you are so much and so many in one where is home? Thompson ends this journey into herself and herstory by bringing us right up to date to London, now, where’s she’s single, happy and looking to the future, and although the journey getting here has been hard and long it’s been one of discovery, experience and hard won learning.
‘Flights of Fancy’ is utter celebration of the possibility of being truly, wonderfully yourself, where and whoever you happen to be, it’s a reverie rooted in reality.
Worth popping out for!
To book tickets see the Marlborough website here:
Until Saturday 15th