REVIEW: STILL (Ovalhouse Theatre) ★★★★
In 2009 Vivian Maier died, alone, in Chicago. Among her possessions was a tea chest full of her excellent but un-viewed Chicago urban streets photographs. The pictures had been taken painstakingly over the years with her trusty Rolliflex, twin lens reflex camera. Maier had only once tried to exhibit her work, in a New York gallery. But the exhibition was a failure, and utterly destroyed her confidence. As a result, Maier never spoke about her hobby again but carried on snapping away regardless.
This play shows an imaginary meeting between Vivian and an institutional hacker/come alcoholic/come recreational drug user, who calls herself “H”.
H is a (fictional) hacker from London. She “procures data” for big companies and governments. Due to her stressful life, H is going into mental meltdown and when she finds herself in Chicago, she comes into contact with the kindly long dead photographer. Both offer something good to the other and both are improved by the encounter.
The play is both sharp and funny. It has something to say about modern day problems such as hacking and eternal problems such as loneliness and disconnection from society. Vivian had been a lonely sad child, fostered out. She had a violent brother with whom she had little contact. She was ill prepared for life as a photographer.
This is a fully immersive play. Rather than being seated, the audience wander around the set along with the cast, and are encouraged to download and use a ‘Still App’ on their mobiles to take photographs throughout the action. You really get involved in the play and the actors and the App becomes a prime element of the entertainment. And there are surprises a plenty.
There seems to be something special about Still – seeing audiences so emotionally affected in a modern play is unusual. The play is short, just one hour, but as you have to stand up for the whole play (even though stools were available if expressly requested) and so it was long enough.
Beth Fitzgerald as Vivian and Molly Taylor as H are both tremendous and warm actresses. The writing and direction by Paul Hodson very good. The theatre is small but nice and the staff working there are pleasant and helpful. Highly recommended for a surprisingly unusual show.
Reviewed by Graham Archer
STILL plays at the Ovalhouse until 26 November 2016