Mayfest Review: Internal Sunday 9th May 2010 By Jo Bannon

Editors Note: This review is part of theatrebristol.net’s second open Mayfest Audience Reviews Project, and the opinions contained are soley those of the author and not those of Theatre Bristol as an organisation, nor should they be attributed as such. For more information about the reviews project contact .

These are the things I know about Yuri:

That he has a Russian name.

That he is 32.

That his greatest fear is not being free or able to continue living and working as he does.

That he looks a little like a younger David Hockney and when I tell him this the delight in his eyes betrays him.

That sadly he is not to be entirely trusted.

That he is an actor and a good one at that.

As you enter the world of Internal you are provoked to question, lose and re-establish those comforting roles between performer and audience, truth and fiction and maybe even consider your own personal responsibility.

As an audience of five you stand in front of a curtain which rises to reveal the company of Ontroerend Goed – a conventional theatrical opening so far, but perhaps here is where that contract ends or at least starts to be interrogated. In front of you are five young, attractive performers who begin a game of looking until finally the complex but silent negotiation of who chooses who is resolved. Yuri chooses me or at least he allows me to believe he does.

What follows is a conversation, a dance, a duet, a negotiation across a table between what I and he will or will not reveal about ourselves. A rapid reaching and groping for our individual boundaries, an investigation into the unknown space between us led by both curiosity and hesitance, which has led past audiences to feel manhandled, betrayed and seduced in equal measure. What surprises me most in this encounter is my willingness to believe in this heighted reality which is constructed for and with me. This is after all a performance – make believe, illusion. One which I have read about and already know might lead to my confidence being gained, my secrets shared and then eventually betrayed.  Nevertheless, alone with Yuri I want to believe that we really could indeed be friends and that he really does mean that fondness in his gaze.

This show makes me question my role and responsibility as an audience member, asks me how quickly I will abandon my guard. Whether I am in fact well rehearsed at this leaping off into illusion through years of watching actors play roles and asking me to believe them and that this show often cited as radical is actually just taking that conceit to it’s logical conclusion, asking theatre and theatre audiences to up the stakes and put their money where their mouth is.

Does Internal satisfy our current desire as audiences for more and more intimate interaction? We are continually invited through various media to write in, call in, text in, get involved and join the global community. We can take part in real time in a performance happening in New York and yet the current crop of small, intimate one to one performances show a trend or longing for the personal. Towards you and I, me and Yuri, face to face in this playspace. So as the performance moves towards it’s conclusion and the French femme fatale unclips her halter neck and asks her slightly stunned companion ‘Is this what you wanted to see?’ perhaps it is not only her bare breasts she is referring to.

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