Review: The Human Voice, Harold Pinter Theatre - Ruth Wilson is transfixing
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Review: Who You Are And What You Do, Bread and Roses Theatre - Making sense of spinning wheels

Who You Are And What You Do starts with spinning a wheel to determine the order of the story - it's a quirky idea and has been used in different guises before.

Who You Are And What You Do  Bread and Roses Theatre Mar 2022
Who You Are And What You Do, Bread and Roses Theatre. Photo: Rachel Guest

The wheel has six pieces of paper with words such as "dignity" and "more than this", and once each is chosen (the audience does the spinning), it is pegged to a washing line across the performance space. It has the effect of bunting.

There is glitter on the floor and boxes with various random items, and a Christmas Tree in the corner. The audience is seated around the edge of the space, and it feels like you are attending a children's party. The play kicks off with two clowns larking about doing clown stuff. 

Are they part of the narrative thread or just a scene-setter? There is a clown later entertaining a lonely boy on his birthday (played by a man wearing a dinosaur costume). That story thread contains a workaholic father who is also having an affair.

There is another thread with a woman who has lost the ability to laugh and turns to an ex-child star for lessons. In another, a woman is writing her dating profile, and in another, a couple live in a perpetual state of preparing for Christmas - the husband has dementia.

Sometimes the stories overlap with characters from one appearing in another, but otherwise, there is seemingly little connection.

There are individual elements that work well; a well-choreographed fight, for example. And there are some great performances - it's always interesting seeing actors take on different roles in the same piece. But taken as a whole, it's a jumble.

How the words on the paper relate to the order of the narrative is, it turns out, only understood by the actors. The individual stories are not fleshed out enough to really get a sense of how mixing up the order or how they are told can challenge your perception.

The result is a series of narratives that bump up against each other, an odd mixture of childish humour, party atmosphere and dark adult themes. We finish with a laughter lesson with the ex-child star. It bookends the play with audience engagement but felt like a strange way to finish.

While entertaining in places, interesting in places, I'm not entirely sure what the overall message was or what you are supposed to take away.

It's getting an OK ⭐️⭐️⭐️ from me.

Who You Are And What You Do, Bread and Roses Theatre, Clapham

Written by Huge Dichmont

Directed by Tom Ward

Running time: 90 minutes without an interval

Booking until 2 April for more information and tickets, head to the Bread and Roses Theatre website.

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