One person shows are an exercise in vanity, perhaps, and remind me of my young self forcing my parents to sit through long winded performances, starring me, with no real attention given to the enjoyment of my audience – all that mattered was that I was good. They didn’t always attend willingly.
In many ways My Death is a show about shows, performance and the ego: a parody of how we present ourselves, what is acceptable, how we display our selves to the world. Kafka wrote somewhere (and I can’t find it anywhere) that all his writing was the same childish desire to imagine his funeral and feel vindicated at seeing how sorry people were that he had gone.
The central character has never known herself and so all is artifice. She becomes, at different moments, everything she thinks the audience want her to be. The irony and comedy is that if this were real, there would be no-one watching, and as a theatre piece, still nobody cares. She tries on different roles – the music hall beauty, the tragic opera dame, the religious martyr, the dummy, the RSC actor. And never once does she think about what she wants, craves, loves, longs or hopes for. It is only ‘What am I expected to do now?’ and ‘Who am I expected to be?’
Her realisation in her final breaths is that at last she doesn’t need to pretend – it is an idea which has never occurred to her before, and though she dies moments later it makes her whole life worthwhile. So this is it… And it is beautiful.
Suicide is a delicate, painful subject, and this show in no way means to trivialise it. Rather, it is a philosophical exploration of the purpose to life, and the assertion that to laugh at one’s darkness is also human – a means by which we bear this lonely burden.
The Lady is a pastiche of what we all go through – her affected speech, mannerisms and trivial worries. But what she decides to do is not trivial. In a sense she trivialises it herself because she does not understand what it means. She has never really been alive, in a true sense, so to give it up is no big deal. It is only when she decides to give it up she realises it now has worth since she no longer has to keep up a pretence – if she has admitted openly, in a group suicide note – that she is a failure, she has nothing to lose and can build from the ground up.
I’ll be performing on April 19th at the Rag Factory just off Brick Lane. Tickets are £5 and you can buy them here: http://ragfactory.ticketsource.co.uk/