There’s an added edge to tonight’s show. We will hear repeatedly how the past feels condensed into a moment that has only just happened. Under the shadow of the very recent death of the Queen, with two major shows in full swing in the Lowry’s larger theatres this theme will probably resonate far more strongly than may have been expected.
Created and performed by Wayne Steven Jackson, we are guided through milestones of Wayne’s life, trying to navigate the world and its expectations of conformity, despite the apparent relaxation of attitudes towards LGBTQ+ rights. Suddenly facing 40 and having failed (through surrogacy) to become a father, Wayne has a choice to make – keep pushing towards ‘ticking the boxes’ (marriage, family, career etc.) or reject these rules and forge his own path.
It’s a perfect subject for the forced intimacy of studio theatre. To the sound of a whimsical score composed by Jack Fleming, we see Wayne trying to ‘hide’ from us, pathetically standing behind a tiny screen that hides only his face. Instructions on a screen from an unseen ‘teacher’ tell Wayne what to do next; what is expected of him; whether he is performing his tasks correctly.
It is incredibly theatrical, dripping with obvious metaphors that still feel authentic and relatable to the audience no matter their own personal circumstance. How much of ourselves are we prepared to share with the wider world? How hard do we try to ‘fit in’?
Wayne’s timing of movement is almost flawless, stepping into perfect sync with some of the effects but occasionally following an instruction before it has appeared on the screen.
The technical elements of the show are visually compelling, with variations of Wayne projected onto screens along with a single magpie companion, although the audio and visual is out of time with each other to such an extent, it’s not clear if this is actually on purpose.
But as Wayne brings more tools onto stage, it all builds up to an enjoyably destructive finale that Banksy would be proud of.
This is a preview show before it will be taken on tour so there is room for what is clearly a physically demanding piece (with sweat gleaming on Wayne’s forehead) to be tightened up from a technical perspective. At points, Wayne’s monologue to the audience threatens to be drowned out by the music, so some ‘old-skool’ vocal projection is needed, even within studio spaces.
Overall, Wayne is a sweet and recognizable in his fight to understand what it is to be a man, especially when you don’t immediately fit society’s mould, with some charming observations that would provide anyone with food for thought.
And Here I find myself was supported by Arts Council England, The Lowry and hÅb. For more information, visit www.waynestevenjackson.co.uk
Reviewer: Lou Steggals
Reviewed: 9th September 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★