A whale washes up on the London Underground. That’s the premise for Brazilian Gabriela Flarys’ one-woman show There She Is. As absurd as such an event may seem, for me it acts as a metaphor for a number of concerning affairs taking place within Britain at present.
In fact, metaphors appear to be a constant throughout the performance, with the plot centred around how London’s multicultural community responds to the chaos caused by the whale. To interpret the metaphors more easily, it’s worth noting that the script itself is verbatim; it comprises of thoughts from those who’ve migrated to the ‘Big Smoke’ regarding life in the capital. The production is double the length of the previous version of the identically-titled piece, which Flarys brought to the Fringe this time last year.
“Enticing energy and captivating choreography”
Potentially the most fascinating aspect of the piece is the various unorthodox body positions that Flarys takes up. At times, it’s almost as if you’re watching an Olympic floor exercise routine. Also commendable is the production’s fast-paced composition, aided by slick costume changes and multifunctional props. To add to this is Flarys’ incorporation of her own experiences of living in London, proffering a candid and personal texture to the performance.
Nevertheless, this is sadly a show with flaws galore. Admittedly not helped by the seating’s slight slope, a large portion of action is lost to those towards the back when Flarys descends to the floor. Elsewhere, there are numerous sound drawbacks such as some untimely cues and recordings that drown out Flarys unnecessarily. Arguably most problematic, however, is that some utterances are just too complex to comfortably comprehend.
For the vast majority of the performance, Flarys gives an excellent account of herself. Her physical sequences are executed exquisitely, and she tackles the script’s humorous sections with ease. Vocally, Flarys is again first-rate, although as time goes on, the voices of her various characters become more difficult to differentiate.
The show really is as bizarre as it sounds. But, despite its peripheral lightheartedness, its failings largely limit what would otherwise be a highly potent performance. Flarys is fortunate that her enticing energy and captivating choreography are both strong enough to salvage a relatively credible performance. Credit to Flarys for focusing on such an important subject as multiculturalism. On the other hand, speaking literally, at least Boris will have someone to go to if a whale does somehow end up on the underground.
There She Is will finish its run at PQA Venues @Riddles Court – Q1 at 20:00 on 26th August.
Image: Gabriela Flarys