Wherever you are and however you have spent the last few months there have undoubtedly been situations and circumstances that have been changed, and most likely made more challenging, by the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether it’s cancelled plans, reduced contact with friends and family, changes in work or study patterns or the many other pieces that make up our lives, we have all had to adjust and adapt.
But despite the difficulties, art is starting to emerge that responds to, reflects upon and faces up to what we have been through and are still experiencing. As our stories emerge, collective empathy can start to shape our understanding and make sense of our experiences. The message begins to shine clearer; we might be separated but we are not alone.
All By Myself premieres as part of the Applecart Arts Dazed New World Festival (tagline: ‘The Art of Hope’), a live-streamed festival with all performances taking place online. We share an evening with a woman who is locked down alone, whilst she edits content for her YouTube vlogs. Flipping between the lens of her webcam, and the camera live in the theatre which gives the feeling of being a fly on the wall of her apartment, we witness the stark differences in her behaviour. Who are we, when we are alone?
“freshly poignant and distressing”
Whilst it is nothing entirely new to be presented with a character who struggles with reconciling the blemishes of reality with their ‘perfect’ representation in the online realm, experiencing this through the lens of lockdown offers a freshly poignant and distressing angle. The woman – we never learn her name – describes herself as living ‘independently’ but the dependence she has on the outside world through the conduit of her phone and laptop is clear in every action she makes. Her daily life is an editing process as she tries to strike the balance between being active and still, talkative and silent, laughing and crying. In smashing an avocado (a darkly humorous moment) she creates activity, mess, chaos, laughter – but the cleanup process, from frantically wiping down surfaces to straightening the corners of her books is meticulous and excruciating. The polarity of her existence feels exhausting. Can you relate?
Throughout the piece, which is largely silent (the woman does not talk to herself and we are largely left to imagine what she might be thinking) the realisation rises that not only do we not know what she is doing – she doesn’t seem to, either. Trying to decode meaning from her sometimes mundane, sometimes erratic actions only seems to lead back to one thing – trying to find a connection.
It is important that these experiences we have shared in private, remotely, distant from each other, are not just skipped or glossed over in our mental editing suites. Witnessing the moments of the everyday experienced in All By Myself remind us that these episodes between the #blessed sunrises and #instabake perfect banana bread are all part of our experience too. Eating fistfuls of coco-pops out of the packet is just part of how this woman has learned to adapt, it’s not always what we would want others to see but it is our experience nevertheless.
“vital part of a national conversation we should be having”
Our experiences at this time are worth talking about, which is why work like All By Myself and festivals like Dazed New World are a vital part of a national conversation we should be having. So, “If you’re out there please just let me know”, because I’m listening.
All By Myself | Online | 18th, 20th & 23rd October