Emma Geliot's picture

 

Invisible City  Image Camilla GreenwellThe first move from home is often life-juddering. Exciting, scary, a bit discombobulating. When the shift is from a small rural community where everyone knows your name to the big city it's even more disconcerting. Lowri Jenkins self-devised performance Invisible City nails that period of transition, combining wit and pathos in equal measure.

As the lights go up on Chapter's theatre stage our heroine, Marie, is on the phone, talking to her anxious mum. Well, not so much talking but punctuating the maternally anxious flow with, "Yeah, yeah, yup, yeah, yeah, yeah, yup, uh-huh, yeah". Convincingly reassuring, wide-eyed and fresh-faced, like a meadow flower plonked in a jam jar. But, as she goes shopping, looks for a job, imagines potential relationships based on brief contact on the tube (yes, it's that big city), it's clear that the fantasy and the reality don't quite match up, while she struggles to reassure down the 'phone.

Invisible City - Image Camilla Greenwell

Loneliness does funny things to the brain, sending everything out of whack. When the only interaction you're getting are the soulless tannoy voices telling you to, "mind the gap" and grab your reduced bargains in aisle seven, fantasy friends beckon. We've all been there - looking for signs of potential friendliness or love. Jenkins/Marie just follows that thread to love with a lemon and borrows the audience to stand infor her great new imaginary friends, taking photosto send to her mother.

Invisible City Image Camilla Greenwell

There are beautiful observations about the desperation of the new job-seeker and the bombardment of information in the bright and disorienting cathedrals of retail. On each shopping trip Jenkins gets more anxious as the names of the supermarkets get more bizarrely realistic (I've certainly shopped at Crap Palace and also declined the loyalty card). Phantom shopping needs removing from the bagging area as the faceless voices begin to overwhelm.

Invisible City Image Camilla Greenwell

The set is crucial here - an almost blank canvas of semi-opaque fabric panels , which conjure up those confusing shopping aisles. They also signify those internal re-calibrations of the mind as it adjusts to enforced solitude. The props too are minimal - just some lemons, one providing the love interest and, ultimately the finest citrus-induced simulated orgasm I have ever seen on a stage (and that's not a sentence I ever expected to write). Jenkins carries the whole thing for forty-five minutes and holds our attention. It is virtually faultless. Except for an odd bit of dance-like movement, which I'm guessing is a device for time passing and certainly less corny than hands whirring on a clock face, or clouds scudding across the moon. Itjars a little. It's not offensive - she moves well - but is a perplexing interjection in the narrative flow. There is also some business with a scarf that is draped, twisted and constantly in distracting motion during the monologue that marks a transitory point. Did we need this device to signpost us to inner turmoil? I'm not convinced. Otherwise the lights, the soundtrack and the central character are all that is needed.

Invisible City Image Camilla Greenwell

These are minor quibbles. Invisible City is the development of a work in progress first seen in 2013. It seems Jenkins has already taken on board some feedback as she launches into what I'm quite sure will be a really interesting career. I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Invisible City was written and performed by Lowri Jenkins at Chapter Arts Centre, in collaboration with Choreographer Jennifer Fletcher, Composer Mat Martin. Supported by Arts Council Wales and Chapter Arts Centre.

All images copyright Camilla Greenwell Photography

Invisible City - Promotional Image copyright L.M.H.C. Invisible City - Promotional Image copyright L.M.H.C.

 

Correction: In our preview for invisible City we credited the picture left to Camilla Greenwell.It should have been credited to L.M.H.C.. Our apologies to both photographers for the mis-credit.