by Julia French on 10th May 2016
Gathering the audience in the street and lining them up against a wall may be a slightly alarming start, but Jolie Booth proceeds to weave a visualisation so utterly convincing, that by the time she leads you up the stairs into the theatre you truly believe that you are creeping into her newly cracked squat. Hip tells Booth’s own story in parallel with, and focusing much more on, the life journey of a woman called Anne Clarke. A brilliant blend of social history, self- reflection and biography, this show is the true story of the discovery of a woman’s life and what it meant to the finder.
Although this show is extremely funny for much of the time, the heart of this story is painfully and breathtakingly sad
As Booth leads us into the space, explaining the importance of posting your section 6 notice on the door and ensuring that there is no evidence of a break in, she is recreating her introduction to the remnants of Anne’s life that she found in her first squat. She manages to create a sense of nostalgia for a time and place, when Brighton was rather rawer, that only some of the audience will be familiar with.
The space is beautifully filled with the knick knacks and kitsch that had surrounded Ann during her counterculture existence from the sixties. The whole creation looks and feels gorgeously authentic. As the audience filters into the round, taking up position on seats and cushions, they are encouraged, but not bullied, into full engagement. This is a multi-sensory, immersive performance with strong audience participation that Booth is calling an “extra-live” event.
She takes a conversational, workshop-like approach as she uses an overhead projector and record player to embellish her story telling. She is an exceptional story teller; her gymnastic use of language is interspersed with a significant amount of poetry and in a clever move she uses the audience to read some prepared letters and texts. This expands the range of voices available to her and creates a collaborative atmosphere.
When Booth initiated a séance type scene, it was clear from the speed at which the audience joined hands that everyone was in a comfortable place. This comfort was enhanced by the addition of vegan party food, Handel on the record player, incense and Tequila. Yes, there was Tequila provided to toast the spirit of Anne. Any longstanding Brightonians will be continually delighted by the constant niche references and immensely strong sense of place and tribe created by this event, and I really hope this translates to non-natives just as well.
Although this show is extremely funny for much of the time, the heart of this story is painfully and breathtakingly sad. The sum total of a life is examined and evaluated for worth. Having read Anne Clarke’s letters and diaries, Jolie Booth wanted to say thank you to her: “Thank you for learning the lessons for me”. Which rather succinctly sums up a large part of why stories exist in the first place.
By Julia French
Julia French lives in Brighton and has worked for numerous theatre groups in the South East. She writes prolifically as part of a creative writing group and spends her free time training in dance.