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Vice Versa

Dorcas Seb

Eclipse Theatre and HOME Manchester

HOME Theatre 2

July 1-2, 2022; 60min

(Also Unity Theatre, Liverpool, July 8, 2022)

This one woman show, written and performed by multi-disciplinary artist Dorcas Sebuyange, is entrancing.

The audience enters to a quietish auditorium in which Dorcas is already performing to a scratchy soundtrack, transformed into music by her hypnotic dancing. Dorcas has worked with an array of creative talent to bring a technology-enhanced performance of a tale both modern and ancient: Troy to sometime in the maybe near-future, where Big Brother has disregarded 1984 and arranged a more subtle, accepted form of control. Because you’re worth it.

Gradually a picture of daily, individual life emerges. Apparently safe, productive, and entertaining, little seems to have intrinsic value and motivation arises from the entertainment choices that reward effort. Smiles all round, one imagines: imagination being essential as there's no one else to see. The lack of human interaction is scary, though considerably less unfamiliar than two years ago.

Dorcas dances with grace and wit, and sings briefly, attractively. The performance is surrounded and supported by imaginative, impressive digital projection, and engaging sound design, carefully allowing the words to predominate.

The gentle journey to audience realisation of the extent and subtlety of the control mechanisms, and the extent to which we’re complicit, is peppered with references that chime with our current lives, and with history. Snatches of modern lyrics - the Beatles and Jackson 5 - symbolise the easy manipulation and interplay of the hidden and powerful control system, and the ancient and modern "Trojan" is still able to encourage self-blame in the victim. These ideas are cleverly written, cleverly performed, and continuously engaging.

The reality of options for the individual to challenge and change is much less-clearly conveyed, so the piece feels a little unresolved. The difficulty of finding room to develop this may be one of the constraints of a one-woman show.

This is a fascinating performance, ably directed by Manchester-based Emmy Lahouel.

So far there are few opportunities to see Vice Versa, but it clearly has a future life, perhaps as part of a mini festival looking at similar themes. In the meantime, the EP recording of the songs, the initial scope of Vice Versa, can be heard on the usual streaming and replay sites.

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