Brighton Fringe 2017
This is superb verse and prose, perfectly constructed and consummately executed. Chittenden does superbly what she almost alone does so well.
Venue: Sweet Venues Dukebox
Festival: Brighton Fringe
Having completed So You Say Sam Chittenden embarks on Underworlds another Sweet Venues Dukebox production, a one-woman inhabiting or skeining of five main characters re-inscribing myth. Deft lighting’s left to the Dukebox with clear instructions and Different Theatre itself provides the webbed set in this forty-minute one-woman shape-shifter.
You’ll be surprised this lasts forty minutes. Sam Chittenden’s always compelling, often mesmeric. Having completed So You Say she embarks on another Sweet Venues Dukebox production, a one-woman inhabiting or skeining of five main characters re-inscribing myth from a feminine, feminist viewpoint that takes in other writers’ views: Rilke on Orpheus for instance. Chittenden’s language isn’t sheerly functional: it’s poetic, and superbly written. For once deft lighting’s left to the Dukebox with clear instructions and Different Theatre itself provides the webbed set in this forty-minute one-woman shape-shifter. Small postcards of mythic post-Renaissance paintings depicting all kinds of rape are scattered on chairs, depicting what’s she’s fighting in the pith of myth, and narratively triumphs over: male violence, male gaze. Take some home.
Chittenden owns a compelling varying voice. She draws her audience in, can scale and project all she needs to, but chooses the hushed penetrating register of which she’s an adept. First, a green-dressed Arachne discloses how she challenged Athene to a spinning-match, so we think we know how that ends. Chittenden’s way with these myths is to alternate light ironies with lightly-melancholic ends. The essential woman in this is untouched is still an authority through all her shapes. Through an interregnum as a Widow spider we see her Cleopatra, robed in splendour in fact dies in sexual ecstasy; she’d not died for Antony. More revelations abound with Cathy’s ghost enticing Heathcliff to their earthy bed. Lot’s Wife, beautifully wrought as Lot sadly explores her crystalline saline shape, ‘kissing the hollow in my neck that made me tremble.’ Finally and at most detailed length, Chittenden explores and discards versions of the Orpheus or perhaps Eurydice myth, most attractively regarding Rilke’s more feminist poem as a springboard to outdo all versions as she brings her own version, inverting the whole process. It’s a release that works for the audience too, perhaps surprised this absorbing piece has come to the end.
This is superbly modulated verse and prose, perfectly constructed and consummately executed. The writing should be published: it has a textual life outside Fringe and Chittenden’s writing dare one say it might in time be handed on to others as she writes and performs with protean force. Lighting plays appropriately at all points, and is never obtrusive. A cocoon is made of the set, just enough to suggest and not overwhelm. Chittenden does superbly what she almost alone does so well.