Ever socialised with a couple and they suddenly begin to bicker? As you uncomfortably shuffle in your seat hoping for it to be over as quickly as possible, it gets increasingly heated and personal. You question whether to mediate, decide it would be an awful idea, then get unwillingly dragged in anyway. A conversation that feels it should be private turns into a spectacle of undermining and criticising one another. Sound familiar?
After getting rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, Made In China’s new show has now made a transfer to London’s Soho Theatre. In Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me, Jess Latowicki and Tim Cowbury hang their dirty laundry out to dry for an entire audience to see. With Jess on stage and Tim in the lighting box, the show flits between narrative and disagreements between this real-life couple. Questions go from light-hearted and funny – “why do you wee so often?” – to more intimate issues such as, “why don’t you lie in my arms any more when we wake up?” It is funny because it is relatable, but also because it is so awkward. As a criticism on modern relationships, it feels far from a love story.
There is no doubt as to the intelligence and humour in the writing, and the soundscape really adds to the atmosphere. This is complemented by Jess’s charisma: as an audience member you are locked into her every move.
What is difficult to get your head around is the premise; there are so many layers to it I often felt confused. A mixture between a play and performance art, it begins and ends with long routines of frantic dancing, seemingly unrelated to the rest of the show. Jess’s costume (sequinned high-waisted pants and a crop top) again seems like a strange choice. At one moment Tim goes out of the theatre to get Jess a beer, and whilst waiting she performs a series of poses named things such as ‘gynaecologist’ and ‘yoga/sex’ – but why? There are many moments where I felt unsure as to the point. Jess says that her boyfriend Tim wrote the script (“sort of”), but then is constantly putting him down and discusses how creepy it is that he is making notes on the audience. Why would he write this about himself? “Tim’s gonna die in a minute”, Jess then says. “He wrote his own death scene into the script”. In between dropping water on her face to emulate tears and talking in detail about her funeral outfit, she continues to talk to Tim. Isn’t he supposed to have died? It is as though we are watching a play about her boyfriend’s death as he critiques from the audience.
If the intention is to make audience members as uncomfortable as possible, in my case they certainly succeeded. It felt like I was being included in a game that I didn’t want to play and I left completely unsure of whether I even really enjoyed it.
Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me is playing at the Soho Theatre until 26 September. For more information and tickets, see the Soho Theatre website. Photo by Made in China.