Eliza’s past mistakes come to light in a fantastic catalyst for what essentially feels like a series of relationship breakdowns.
Part of this year’s La Mama Summer, This is What it Feels Like is a clever, sweet and unassuming meditation on truth and culpability, on family, on trust and loneliness and connection.
Written by previous collaborators, Lauren Bailey and Adam J A Cass, who star in and direct the play respectively, This is What it Feels Like plunges Eliza into the media hype at the centre of a human rights scandal, casting light on the lives that come to orbit such events and the shifting concepts of victimhood and blame.
Eliza’s past mistakes come to light in a fantastic catalyst for what essentially feels like a series of relationship breakdowns. With no tangible point of entry into the characters’ internal digestion of the scandal, we’re left to interpret the physical minutiae of Eliza, her two sisters, her best friend and her boyfriend as they reassess each other and themselves in terms of the bombshell. Both the writers and the actors have done brilliantly here: tone and body language is everything, and the mounting tension between the characters is palpable to the point of awkwardness. Punctuated by unexpected but welcome laughs, and some truly lovely moments of genuine affection, the way the characters fumble their way through the scandal becomes more momentous than the scandal itself.
What with all this body language, the whole show is driven by interaction, at times stilted but always effective; while a gossipy early scene introducing three female characters feels slightly contrived, most dialogue is so intimate and natural that I could have been eavesdropping. With these connections as its markers, the plot seemed to grow organically and independently.
Protagonist Eliza struggles at the centre of the play’s colliding worlds in a shrewd portrayal by co-writer Bailey, accompanied by a sharp performance from Kasia Kaczmarek, and a heartfelt one from Jessica Hackett. A brilliant set from co-writer and director Cass and designer Jennifer Tran very nearly steal the show, its soft texture and bright primary colours lending the whole series of events the kind of surrealism that coats trauma in memory.
For a handful of well-earned laughs, honest emotional tension and a killer use of plasticine, head along to La Mama to see This is What it Feels Like.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This is What it Feels Like
Written by Lauren Bailey and Adam J A Cass
Directed by Adam J A Cass
Set Design by Jennifer Tran
Lighting Design by Meika Clark
Performed by Lauren Bailey, Sophie Cole, Cat Commander, Jessica Hackett, Kasia Kaczmarek and Dallas Palmer
La Mama Theatre, Faraday St, Carlton
19 February - 2 March