views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Tonight I'm Gonna Be The New Me
Soho Theatre
8th September 2015


Jessica Latowicki

Photography supplied by the Soho Theatre

Jessica Latowicki is dancing. It's not the most elegant or graceful performance I've ever seen, and at ten minutes, it's awfully long for a piece which doesn't seem to have a huge amount of meaning. She's frenzied, sexual, innocent - she taps into all the different aspects of herself, I suppose - but there's no real narrative arc or any obvious physical skill, she's just trashing around. Finally she stops, flashes us a wide grin and asks us if we enjoyed the dance she made just for us. Suddenly I no longer want those ten minutes of my life back, there's a retrospective filter of sheer joy applied and I recall watching a woman brave enough to take the stage and move the way she bloody well wants, rather than the way that anyone has demanded of her. Sensing how much fun she has had, and how much freedom she's demonstrated the piece immediately transforms into something quite beautiful. Take that, first impressions.

It helps too that Tim Chowbury doesn't seem to think much of her performance, driving us into Mamma Bear mode, fiercely protective of our Jess. She seems lovely, whilst he seems judgemental. Who does the tech guy think he is? Well, her boyfriend. Sort of. This is a story about Tim and Jess, but we don't know if it's about Chowbury and Latowicki the theatre makers or Tim and Jess the fictional characters. One of the few things that we do know is part of the illusion is Jess's wild movement, which has been carefully put together by choreographer Irene Cioni. However, other than that, we can't tell where the line is between theatre and reality. Tonight I'm Gonna Be The New Me has been created by a couple about a couple, with a deliberate ambiguity which often makes us feel like we're intruding on a private moment. Tim and Jess frequently bat passive-aggressive exchanges back and forth, neither impressed by the other's words. It's uncomfortable, awkward and intense - there are points where we're unsure who will be together by the end of the 70 minutes - the fictional couple? The real couple? Both? Neither?

Jess's dialogue is scripted, and so is ours - she coaxes us into narrating part of the story, much to Tim's disapproval. We're initially slightly baffled, but having established ourselves on Team Jess, we play along good-naturedly, as she singles out members of the audience to help. Who could refuse anyone with such a warm and childlike smile? It's only when you later reflect on what just happened that you realise the intelligence of getting us to say fixed phrases in a show that is as much about real life as it is about imagination - we've become a part of the predictable narrative of life and relationships. There's a lot that's inevitable and this too is mirrored in the closing sequence. Starting and ending the production with a piece of dance underlines the circular nature of Jess and Tim's relationship, and that is clever. It works better the first time though, because it's unexpected. The second time it's less powerful yet still good, and that in itself makes a point - damn, they're smart. Jess and Tim. Latowicki and Chowbury. Either. Both!

Whilst title speaks of determination and hope, tellingly, it also refers to a fresh start, rather than a better one. As much as we strive for change, are we capable of really improving ourselves or just doing the same thing over and over again with a different person? Tonight I'm Gonna Be The New Me provokes a lot of interest - it leaves with you with big ideas and concepts floating around in your head though, rather than bite-sized thoughts you can immediately verbalise and discuss. Love is horrendously difficult to make sense of, and in many respects, the same goes for this show. It's confusing, it's unexpected and it has plenty of highs and lows - and yet, all things considered, it's certainly an enriching experience.

Tonight I'm Gonna Be The New Me is a gloriously unsettling production. It can feel frustrating at times, but falls on the right side of endearing rather than annoying. Whilst it's strange to see a show and not to immediately have a gut feel for whether you enjoyed it, there's something refreshing about a production which can overwhelm you in such a way that you don't know what's true any more, not even your own thoughts. It does take quite some time to arrive at an opinion, but the delayed gratification is worth it.

Tonight I'm Gonna Be The New Me opened on 7th September and runs until 26th September 2015 at the Soho Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern, Central)

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