You, Me and The Distance Between Us is a personal look at the recent humanitarian crisis and our attempts to justify our actions as a society.
A one-woman show, Ellen Muriel starts by introducing herself, she tells us about the refugee camps she volunteered on and addresses her privilege through a spoken word poem. We then listen to her sing and watch shadow puppets dance on the back of a hung up tent. There are also moments of personal stories, puppetry and multi-rolling, which she admits herself she is good at. Afterwards the post-show discussion tells me that most of the audience are volunteers themselves, and they see comfort in some familiarities being portrayed. My familiarities come from recognising her in myself, a young middle class drama graduate who likes to use theatre as a tool.
The piece itself is well-balanced, there is a strong variety of different story telling techniques moulded into an emotional arc.
The content is auto-biographical which means Muriel is mostly playing herself, I think these are the parts where we feel most comfortable, she is personable and open about her experience. I applaud her need to say things and her attempt to use her experience to create a piece of theatre that can address a larger issue. The parts when she acknowledges herself and invites in realism are the most inviting to us as an audience. Her story is her opinions and her experience, which is something that is hers and only hers, and is what makes it interesting.
Mostly though, the content makes me feel deeply unsettled, there is no doubt it’s hard-hitting. You question yourself and how involved you are in humanity. How tenuous are our links to each other, and should we work to close those gaps more? I left feeling selfish for focusing on myself for a little while. As Muriel says during the Q&A, reporters would often ask her to pick one person ‘with a good story’, and she replied, ‘well there are 15,000 of them here’. How can we decide who is more important as a human?
I think if I could say anything it would be that although Muriel starts off stating that the piece is subjective, she could make it even more subjective. It would be more powerful as an artistic opinion piece. But overall she is a strong creator of theatre, which comes from her being so passionate about the subject matter. It’s about being human, which all great theatre is.
You, Me and the Distance Between Us is played at the Hive, Dalton on 19 June 2016. For more information see facebook.com/events/youmeinbetween