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Brighton Fringe 2024

You’re Not Doing It Wrong If No-one Knows What You’re Doing

Rachel Blackman

Genre: Biographical Drama, Contemporary, Dance and Movement Theatre, One Person Show, Theatre

Venue: The Dance Space at South East Dance


Low Down

Leading us through the rocky terrain of family expectations, trials and fails, questioning why we make the choices we do and putting a brave face on life. The long-anticipated new show by Rachel Blackman pulses with music and movement straight from the heart. Look out for upcoming tour dates on her Tiny Failures website. Photo by Wendy Pye.



Let’s say you’re a young actor whose just landed a role in a huge Hollywood film. You’re building the muscles required for the part and co-star Keanu Reeves is on the adjacent running machine. Life should be a dream right now, and the future rosy. Yet you find yourself in your trailer, bawling your eyes out, miserable to the core. “Everything should be going well” says creator Rachel Blackman “but inside you’re dying.”

If that sounds a bit heavy, and the underlying themes of this fascinating show do go deep, it’s performed with such deftness, self-awareness and humour that we feel lifted. Coming from a high-achieving musical family, Rachel is given every orchestral instrument to learn and is poor on each, finding affinity only with the cello. She does ballet classes from age 4 to 18 and never gets it right; there’s heartbreaking, hilarious footage of little Rachel trying to control her legs. In hindsight both these things, the cello and the wayward legs, hint at a future performance vocabulary of purposeful movement combined with abandon; the physicality that feeds so beautifully through the show.

From childhood through adolescence, Rachel paints a clear portrait of her family and her need to connect with her father, through slides, film and audio. The intimate studio holds a desk, a lamp and the bones of an umbrella from which to hang mementoes and build a sort of sacred space. A space to think about the value of art and where creativity sits within a world of commerce, consumerism, competition and conflict.

There are jokes, genuinely funny moments – being in a lift with her idol Laurie Anderson unable to speak – and tears of frustration at this constant questioning that goes on in her head. Bringing in music maker Emiliana Torrini on live video takes the spotlight off Rachel as performer which must be welcome, but  pulls focus from the story.

Hatched nearly five years ago and scratched at the much-missed Basement arts space (with early direction from Spymonkey’s Toby Park) the work has developed with input from contributors to Rachel’s 2018 Museum of Tiny Failures. And how we fail; the Facebook group has over 1000 members.

Rich, raw, narratively driven and infused with music, the show dances along the dangerous cliff-edge of autobiographical drama avoiding mawkishness, or self congratulation under Emma Roberts’ sure-footed direction. Rachel’s early poise, leafing through books that describe action and feeling, tightly held and unable to face the microphone, is unhinged by footage of Jacqueline du Pré playing Bach. Her body recalls the unexpected joy of dancing jazz ballet.   Bouyed by her partner, confident in her choices and reconciled (almost) with her father, Rachel is free to move her legs any damn way she pleases.