All By Myself review: A Loud Silence
** * 3 STARS
All By Myself (co devised by Jessica Bickel-Barlow and Charlotte Blandford) is an experimental pantomine-esque play exposing what goes on behind the scenes of a DIY lifestyle vlogger. An interesting concept that takes shape in complete silence, the only sounds heard are the edited audio clips of the influencer on the computer screen. Charlotte Blandford plays the disconnected vlogger and we, the audience, are the secondary characters who pose as a fly on the wall. We are the ones who put the pieces together with the information Blandford feeds us, outside of the meticulously curated narrative painted on social media screens. Without the comfort of Final Cut Pro Blandford is hopeless, slightly ditzy and a little bit lost. We follow Blandford as the end of the world appears to be edging closer to home, and she attempts to navigate her way around being cut off from the technology she leans so heavily on.
All By Myself is an interesting play that examines the impact on social media without explicitly having to say anything. It's almost as though the words are led through Blandford's actions as she takes the audience through a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings without so much as uttering a word. We are assumed to be a fly on the wall in Blandford's space as she distracts herself with new DIY inventions. One immediate point I noticed is the play is very well directed; Bickel-Barlow (director) draws out the nuances of Blandford's character and makes the idea digestible for stage. Blandford plays a very charming individual and I do not have a hard time imagining that influencers offscreen are really just bumbling around trying to figure out things like the rest of us.
The idea of creating content and being part of a machine that is constantly generating the new and improved version of anything and everything, is a reality we are all living in. All By Myself takes this one step further to draw the audience out of the simulated frame and conjure up our own narrative of what we believe the reality is. Blandford's simple movements are easy to imagine because they're universal - peeling a potato, stretching, looking for an item. Lily Howkins led the creative team with her movement direction and this is done skilfully. Blandford is human and her movements bring her curated highlight reel on social media back down to earth. But what makes it fun is that the audience are tasked with coming up with the story. It adds an element of tension and suspense as one audience members idea of the reality Blandford is living will be different to the next person, will be different to Blandford's actual lived reality.
I really enjoy the idea however I felt as though the execution requires a little more fine tuning and work. It lacked a clear structure and whilst I appreciate leaving much to the imagination of the audience, especially in a play that centres itself on the audiences perspective, I'm hoping that in future productions, All By Myself will really take the audience on a rollercoaster of emotions that leave us questioning everything just that little bit more. There were some parts that felt a little overplayed so it would be interesting to see how this would look with those parts scaled down, and the panic and fear of DIY'ing resources that have always been available to us, if that is dialled up more. The stage design is set up really ingeniously but I felt as though there could have been more to get out of it, and again dialled up that very real and universal fear of the fear of the unknown outside of our four walls.
Performer - Charlotte Blandford
Director - Jessica Bickel-Barlow
Co-Storywriters - Jessica Bickel–Barlow and Charlotte Blandford
Producer - Olivia Munk
Movement Director - Lily Howkins
Lighting Designer - Rachel Sampley