Caroline Horton smirks as she comes on stage. The audience titters; we have been primed to laugh, but it is not long before we are drawn inexorably into something altogether more intense. The chuckles die down.
Horton has worked with the Yard Theatre to create her compelling one-woman show All of Me. The drama appears initially to be a rather worthy study of mental health, yet it extends over the course of the 64-minute performance into a wide-ranging reflection on fear, hope, emotive pain, live death and the meaning or lack of meaning of life.
Directed by Alex Swift, the play was rapturously received at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, bagging two awards. With echoes of Laurie Anderson, the material is alternately sombre and exuberant, a meditation on “our desperate moulding of chaos into something masquerading as meaning, a story, even redemption”.
The narrative takes the form of a mystery with one character doing all the parts. A multitude of voices, song and other sound effects are generated electronically onstage (though the playback was perhaps a bit repetitive).
A huge vocal crescendo at the end brings the piece together as Horton feels her way toward hope even inside “the hopelessness of the void”. The dénoument is most emphatically not health, but it may be a kind of truth and beauty that can be glimpsed only through the travails of ‘unreason’.
All of Me (The Possibility of Future Splendour)
Through 28 September
Unit 2A, Queen’s Yard, E9 5EN