REVIEW: Another Universe (Basement Theatre)

Review by Irene Corbett

[Full of Possibilities] 

Part of the irresistible pull of the stage is the opportunity to slip into the skin of another, to imagine and inhabit another world before being released back into your own life. Nadia Freeman aka Miss Leading’s Another Universe self-consciously employs the stage as a space in which to explore some of the myriad of possible lives one person might contain. 

Freeman weaves a series of spoken word poems into a sprawling expression of lost desires and unanswered questions. 

The piece is, in large, an entry into the developing canon of Covid /pandemic inspired self-reflection. Half of the stage is a flat disorganised by the process of packing to leave once the travel restrictions are lifted, and the other half is a liminal space containing a white drop on which to project images as well as a crate labelled “possibilities” on one side and “regrets” on the other. The two spaces are divided by a hanging empty door frame, an instantly evocative choice though one which could have been made more of. 

At just 45 minutes in length the show is brimming with topics. Freeman offers questions of identity, and an exploration of the meaning of home in a global world or in the life of a traveller. She also presents a treatise on war and the conflict between structure and freedom, while at the heart of the piece is an aching discussion of sexuality and womanhood, the weight of expectations, and the anxious desires. Many audience members will find their own concerns are reflected in the shifting melodies of the poetry and the resounding but upspoken “what if” of the project. 

There is tension at points between what works poetically and what a staged narrative requires. Topics shift swiftly from rippling and opaque images of isolation or repression to heightened prose discussions of the Marvel films. There are missed opportunities for echoes and repetitions and some pieces are so rhythmically distinct to others that stronger design choices are needed to carry the audience through the change. A more extensive and consistent use of sound and projection could help blend the ‘universes’ together by making more of the transitions between the two stage spaces and demarcating the different lives depicted. As Freeman aka Miss Leading has a body of original electronic music it is surprising that music is not utilised in a more focused manner, or that much of the music used in the show did not appear to be Miss Leading’s own. 

Freeman is an arresting performer, deeply likeable and very capable of slipping mercurially from one mood to another. Her poetry is personal but in its specificity and attention to the details of these varied possible lives it reaches for the universal, an achievement evidenced by the audience’s audible recognition of shared truths. 

Another Universe is a journey through many lives reflected in the eyes and words of one performer but ultimately it is a philosophical exploration of possibilities and regrets, offering a mixture of contemplation, anger, anxieties, and contentment. 

Another Universe plays Basement Theatre the 25th to the 29th of  Oct, 2022.  

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