Attending Live Art Society’s production ‘I Can (Still)’, I had no idea what was in store for the next hour. I had been told by friends that it would be an immersive piece centred around the themes of love and family, but this brief description belied what was an engaging, challenging, and unique viewing experience.
Heading into the performance space, one was greeted by a table arrayed with sausage rolls, cheese straws, and biscuits, all the accoutrements of a dinner party. After being guided to an assigned seat, a character begins a dialogue placing you, as the viewer, as a character in the performance. This was initially jarring, and it took a moment to adjust one’s perceptions of the boundaries of theatre. What unfolds for the following hour was a performance of great skill, and intricate detail, which never allows the viewer to take a breath, and reminds one of the impact of theatre.
The story revolves around the family dynamic of a husband and wife, facing marital obstacles such as complacency, and the wife’s dissatisfaction with her husband; two young children, whose enthusiasm and vibrancy adds a degree of levity and humour to the proceedings; a pair of teenagers navigating the choppy waters of adolescence, and unrequited love; and an aunt undergoing fertility treatment, looking to justify her choices to a sceptical brother. The subject matter is hardly new; indeed, it is distinctly familiar to the audience, however the refreshing novelty of the performance style, make the impact of these familiar themes all the more profound.
The hubbub of dinner party chat was broken throughout with affecting pieces of live performance. Well delivered poems are utilised with effect to illustrate some of the hidden meanings each character disguises beneath their interactions with the other family members. Dance was interestingly employed, with a particularly lasting image of the two young teenagers contorted in confusion and care, as well as a routine that involved the audience slow dancing as the cast recited a poem, which one cannot help feeling engaged by, even if it feels awkward participating in the performance. The script itself is lively and evocative of family discord, with layers of pain seasoned with humour which confers upon the piece a weighty realism; without a strong script, such a piece could perhaps have fallen flat, and instead as a viewer one is engaged in several of the characters’ conversations all most at once.
Ultimately, the success of live art performance weighs upon the shoulders of the players. In ‘I Can (Still)’, each player delivered a convincing and lasting performance, and it is the skill and quality of the cast that enabled the piece to sing in a manner this reviewer found interesting, and impactful. They should be commended for producing a complex, multi-faceted piece, in such a professional and talented manner.