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Ant Lightfoot is absolutely terrifying as they sit watching a TV image of a hamster spinning endlessly in a wheel. In monotone, they utter “The hamster’s dead. But the wheel won’t stop spinning.” Am I A Terrible Person? nosedives into the horrible mundanity of mental illness with a chilling intimacy which will leave you in tatters.
The whole piece is deviously creepy. I don’t know whether it’s the shaky camera work accompanied by roars of canned laughter or the nauseating soundscape, but this piece feels so detached. We’re inside a tidy home, examining the performer through their reflection with voyeuristic discomfort; Lightfoot makes bathing and skin-care incomprehensibly creepy, derailing stereotypes of compulsive hygiene as the clicks of the hamster wheel rise ominously in the background.
Our performer is totally vulnerable, bathing stark naked, rambling about killing their sperm in hot water. With an open body, Lightfoot lays out personal experiences as clear as the tattoos on their skin.
The representation of intrusive thoughts is jarringly honest, “Am I a pervert? Am I a paedophile? …Am I a burden?” Then Lightfoot is gazing into your eyes, topless and monologuing about the complexity of the intrusions on a floral bedspread. There’s an undertone of perpetual suicidality drumming below the surface. It’s an unspoken reality so many neurodivergent people silently harbour as they face their day-to-day.
An obsessive hand washing sequence disembowels the stereotypical OCD trope with eloquence. It’s not just cleanliness – it’s overpowering compulsion. Lightfoot speaks of analysing the tempo of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song to get the feeling right and scrubbing ones hands till they draw blood. They ask us when self-care became an industry? It’s an exploitative measure perpetuated by neurotypical people who think baths are the peak of tranquillity. How has our self-worth become measured in consumerism?
Lightfoot performs a stand up set about masculinity and shitting to a trio of very small plushies and it’s really, really sad. I find myself dissociating to the backdrop of the booing audience and the vivid realisation that our performer’s microphone is a pink vibrator. I’m certain that if the unnerving overtone was gone, I’d be able to laugh. Instead, I’m choked up watching Lightfoot squirm into a notebook, desperately begging for the camera to be shut off.
In just twenty minutes, Lightfoot serves a compact mental health depiction which slashes through sugar-coat with political grace. This is the starting point for a magnificent raw gaze into OCD and depression and I am desperate to see what else Lightfoot has tucked up their sleeve.
Am I A Terrible Person? is playing online until 22nd February. For more information and tickets, see The Living Record website.