The truly intimate black box venue that is the Lion and Unicorn Theatre perfectly matches the storytelling that is Annie Cheung’s Dots, which is part of this year’s Camden Fringe programme.
This piece seems to be semi-autobiographical, as Cheung describes her love affair with the stage, cleverly personifying it as her true love when she asks if her love will ever be reciprocated, and questions why it plays so hard to get. This idea extends to the career that she pursues instead, the ‘rich and handsome, but predictable’ law firm, as well as her husband’s ‘mistress’, the office. She muses on the fact that her parents preferred her relationship with the law firm, as the stage is too unpredictable, making for comical and relatable comparisons throughout, as Cheung explores the trials and tribulations of life and asks the question, how do we ever really know that the choices we make are the right ones?
This is an original one-woman show: at the start, Cheung is revealed to the audience as the lights fade in and we see that she is lying on the floor, bound by fairy lights with tape across her mouth. She wakes up and realises that she is trapped, but soon figures out who it is that is keeping her captive – her own self-doubt. She is forcing herself to confront the guilt she possesses around having a life that others would view as successful, yet still feeling ultimately unfulfilled, causing her to give up on the want to live altogether.
With such little set or lighting design, we are walked through important memories in the protagonist’s lifetime, such as her first day in London and her wedding night – moments that made her the person she is today, whether she is content with that or not. Using small balls as gateways into her memories (think Pixar’s Inside Out), she must solve the puzzle in order to free herself from the space she finds herself in. Two simple white chairs are used as characters for her to interact with, simply yet effectively transporting us from one setting to the next.
Through comedic moments that are hit and miss (but when they land they’re great), Cheung’s character battles with that little negative voice we all deal with, and learns that it is the unpleasant as well as the positive experiences that make us who we are.
Dots played at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 5 August. For more information and other Camden Fringe shows, click here.