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Willa is a grown-up woman, and she is allowed to do what grown-up women do – go outside, put lipstick on, and call herself a woman. But Willa is not like any other grown-up. In the online play, Outside, Willa (Gabrielle MacPherson) tells her story of child abuse and to support her testimony she has to find a certain evidence.
As part of The Space’s livestream series, Gabrielle MacPherson performs her unsettling one-woman show live in front of a camera. Written by MacPherson and directed by Karis Crimson, Outside tells the story of a woman who has suffered as a result of her abuse as a child and as a result has never dared to leave the house. Having spent 30 years of her life inside to hide from the bad things that are awaiting her outside of the door, she now finds herself locked into a witness questioning suite.
Outside is a chilling one-hour show that dives into the topics of child abuse, child services and psychological terror. It raises questions regarding society’s plan of action regarding these situations and imagines the worst-case scenario of a woman who has been traumatised all her life. MacPherson’s performance aims to explore the mindset of a woman who has never gotten the chance to grow up and live a normal life, and her childlike mannerisms evoke a queasy feeling as she digs through the stacks of letters that her father has sent to his lovers, with an erratic casualness.
Supporting the eerie storyline is a detailed set and costume design by Ica Niemz. A room full of newspapers, books, letters, and a recording machine which could all serve as evidence for Willa’s case set the scene for the psychological storyline. It manages to pull the audience into Willa’s world and creates the urge to want to help Willa find the evidence she is looking for – evidence that proves the abuse she has suffered.
MacPherson delivers a varied performance, swaying between excitement and insanity. However, the piece undeniably would have a much stronger impact if it was performed in front of a live audience. Filmed using different camera settings which capture all the essential moments, Outside looks cinematic but never quite manages to build a connection with the audience. And the retelling of stories of abuse and trauma quickly lose their shock value and become yesterday’s news.
This piece raises interesting questions such as whether her parents did love her after all, or whether Willa feels stronger because of her trauma. However, Outside seems to be stuck somewhere between horror, psychological thriller and mental illness and lacks in speed and catharsis.
Outside played online until 20 February 2021. For more information visit The Space’s website.