I Know All The Secrets In My World… is a physical adventure that breaks your heart and then pieces it together, putting plasters touched with tiny kisses over the cracks.
A wordless play, a silent song, a love duet for a father and son, we watch as they move through the seven stages of grief, struggling to talk, to survive, to do the large and the small, to cope with the everyday.
Tiata Fahodzi are a national touring theatre company, devoted to telling new stories about the experiences of Africans in Britain.
TIata Fahodzi explore an interesting performance style in their new piece I know… Almost the only words spoken in the piece come from offstage, and the rest of the play is entirely physical, with gestures and interactions being the only language. This serves to highlight all that cannot be spoken in the wake of a tragedy, and the silence and loneliness of grief.
The play starts with two men playing on a wii. At first it appears that they are brothers (as they both look quite young), but it soon becomes clear that they are in fact father and son. Their play is energetic and physical, it is clear they have a good relationship and they quickly work together to set the table when a voice offstage urges them to hurry up and stop messing around.
The next scene the tone has changed. In the angles and mirrors of the complicated set, we see both figures in dark suits, writhing and jerking in a dance that symbolises pain and grief in a very effective way. I didn’t know what the play was about before I went to see it, so at the time was not entirely sure what was being represented, but once I had worked it out, it was a powerful image that kept returning to my mind’s eye.
For the rest of the piece we see these two sad and broken people, trying to co-exist in a life that has had its foundation pulled from under it. The young boy is still a child, and through his suffering there are moments of his old playfulness. The father is lost within himself – trying to carry on, but with the emptiness of his bed overwhelming him.
Throughout the play all the sound effects and music are created live offstage by an actor who began by playing the distant, chiding voice of the mother. This is a nice touch and works well, especially for the parts where the radio or answering machine switch on.
The set is a naturalistic one – kitchen sink drama style, with a cheerful kitchen, gauzy fabric letting us see into a bedroom, with a bathroom sink at one end. On the whole it works, but there are a few issues with sightlines. Despite being in the front row of a very small venue, there were times when I couldn’t see what was going on, which was a bit of a shame.
There was a slight problem with the pacing of the piece. The lack of words meant that it occasionally felt a bit slow or repetitive, and I think elements of it could have been cut, whilst still giving us the same impression. That being said, the energy and relationship of the performers onstage was excellent, and they played the light and dark of the piece exceptionally well, meaning that this was a surprisingly moving show.
Latitude have made the theatrical experience better and better as the years have gone by, not allowing latecomers, refining the quality of the staging and technical aspects. This year they have made their second theatre venue The Little House, far better, with chairs and a wooden floor. This meant seeing ‘proper’ plays is much more possible, as opposed to last year, when it was about trying to get comfortable on a bit of ground that wasn’t too damp or uneven. The only strange element was the venue’s small capacity of only 60, when there was clearly room for many more chairs, and they were turning people away at the door. It seemed to be a bit of a shame both for audience and performers.