Brighton Fringe 2016
Hip is Jolie Booth’s extra-live, semi-autobiographical, one woman show about a bunch of semi-hip young squatters, who find a once hip woman’s long-forgotten possessions in an empty flat above the shops of Brighton. It is a vibrant exploration of tribe, connection and kinship across lives.
Hip is a brilliantly staged and originally conceived performance, hosted by the disarmingly relaxed and likeable Booth.
Hip’s story line is well-written and intriguing. It highlights the links between Booth and Annie, the woman who used to inhabit the flat that she squatted, and provides a comfortable structure in which we are invited to explore questions around memory, tribe, kinship, and connections between lives. It’s also a fascinating glimpse of Brighton life over the last half century.
The performance is oustanding in its capacity to get the audience to willingly suspend their disbelief, and yet be totally and utterly present. From the moment that Booth met us in front of the Marlborough pub, she set the tone of the show: stripping away the conventionalities of performance, and building intimacy. Skilfully, she put the audience totally at ease. It was like you already knew and trusted her: there was almost a collective sigh of relief. And from that place, she was able to transport us away in space and time, to another location, in another era, knowing that we were safe in the hands of a consummate hostess.
The staging supports the hyper-real feel of the play. As we stepped into the theatre, it was like entering a sitting room – chairs and scatter cushions, nibbles on a tray – at the beginning of a house party. The physical staging was augmented by the imaginary staging created by Booth’s consummate story telling. You could see the layout of the flat, the posters on the walls, the shelves, the diaries under the stairs. An overhead projector and music playing on the record player lent a retro feeling, and also marked progressions in the performance. Props – old letters, pictures, post cards, even a hip bone – were passed around by the audience, adding another layer of authenticity to the reality of the experience. The audience became players in the story themselves – reading letters and diary extracts. And when it became clear that some members of the audience actually knew Annie – the key character in Booth’s story – for real, it was like the energetic loop between and reality closed.
One of the keys to the performance’s success was that it was very, very human in its breadth and variety. Although things never got too serious – there was a lot of lightness, humour, even a dildo – it looked full on and with compassion at addiction, love, and loss. The performance was also structured around ritual and respect for the dead. In short, it was like a séance with tequila, nibbles, tenderness and laughter.
I loved this show, recommend it highly, and will definitely be keeping an eye out for future productions from Kriya Arts. There’s one question about which I’m still curious: it’s such a Brighton-spirited show that I wonder how it would travel to other locations.
After the show, I met Nicky – Annie’s real-life daughter – and asked her a few questions about the show and her mum. I recorded one short interview:
and then another, as Nicky led me back into her past (and we made our way down the Marlborough’s stairs). Hyper-hyper-real. I was fascinated:
You can also listen to Paul Levy’s interview with Jolie Booth here: