‘Scene Unseen’ is a new song cycle written by Jessica Walker and Joseph Atkins exploring the former’s life story and her journey towards self-acceptance. It is presented entirely online, having been filmed in a single room, with footage of Walker performing being interspersed with some really beautiful animations.
Undeniable is that Jessica Walker is an incredible performer, particularly with regards to her vocal ability and ability to engage an audience, even if they’re only present through a screen. Despite the fact I was taking notes throughout, and my phone kept pinging with notifications, I never felt distant from the story.
Another massive achievement of this production is that even though it appeared to have only been filmed in a single room, it was always interesting to look at. This was a result of clever use of lighting, the cuts to animations by Thomas Hicks, and the fact that David Lefeber appears to have found every possible camera angle in the small space.
However, I think this piece could benefit from a few changes. There are a lot of individual stories from Walker’s life discussed within the show, all of which are strong individually but never quite gel together, and I struggled to see how a number of them played into the show’s message of self-acceptance. Most of the stories that linked the best into this theme were actually about her Father’s struggles with identity and relationships, and how these paralleled with her own life, à la ‘Fun Home’.
I think the underlying reason for this is that a lot of the songs detailing Walker’s own experiences were chock full of exposition but never quite drilled down into the emotions caused by these experiences. They could be implied but weren’t really discussed or ever the focus of the songs. This meant that when the show came to its conclusion it didn’t come together as I feel Walker intended as there weren’t emotions expressed that could be linked together or to the overall message. Adding a verse or two to each song that dived more into Walker’s psyche would make it far more impactful. The stories themselves are really strong and after thinking about it, you can see how they could tie into the broader narrative, but I think this needs to be made a tad more explicit.
Overall, a fine way to spend an hour and a great example of online theatre done really well with regards to the use of technology and the central performance coming across excellently. However, this needs some tidying up and more of a focus on the emotional heart of the show – it’s definitely there, it just needs to be brought out more.
You can watch Scene Unseen by visiting https://www.scene-unseen.co.uk/
Reviewer: Ella Catherall
Reviewed: 28th October 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★