Thursday, 18 October 2018

Hell Is Other People - Circus Review

What: Hell Is Other People
When: 18 - 21 October, 2018
Where: Melba Spiegeltent
Created and performed by: Jess Love
Jess Love
You would almost not recognise Jess Love in her new show Hell Is Other People, playing as part of Sidesault at the Melba Spiegeltent this week Eschewing her fast paced hilarity as a genius of the hula hoop and skipping rope (amongst other apparatus), in this full length solo show Love bares her soul - and her body - as she takes us through a kaleidoscope of relationship experiences, a couple of which are not for the faint-hearted.

The quote 'hell is other people' comes from the Sartre play No Exit. Whilst often misrepresented, what Satre is talking about is the gaze of the other and what it does, what it signifies, and what it manifests in the self. Love understands this and in her show of the same name she exposes herself body and soul to our gaze as she lives and relives key relationships in her sexual maturity and talks about how she exposed herself to their gaze as well.

Although the hula hoop does not feature prominently in this show, Hell Is Other People is circles within circles as Love recreates each relationship by repeatedly 'birthing' naked from backstage. Each iteration involves her donning a new set of clothes (a new costume), and taking a new role for each partner. It is worth noting there were various name changes for this show, but in my opinion it could have also been called Love Is A Battlefield as each expulsion from the womb is accompanied by the sounds of war and every encounter leaves scars.

Some relationships are simpler than others. 'Frenchie The Clown' is a fairly harmless figure who enjoys imagining Love juggle dildoes. 'The Alpha Lesbian' helps her leave 'Bananaman' which is empowering until it is overpowering. Each relationship has a circus skill attached - hula hoop, clowning, rollerskating, corde lisse, etc. The circus element is not really the point though.

When I reviewed Feed The Horse I said Dadaism was anti-art and I wonder if Hell Is Other People is more truly of that genre than the Radish By Night show. There is a sense within this show that Love is not trying to 'entertain' and is working to minimal theatricality. That is not to say it is not highly complex and meticulously constructed. It is more that in a circus framing where we tend to expect in your face and over the top feats that wow and awe, Love treats it all as everyday ennui.

It all becomes clear when Love gets to the intermission which doesn't exist. After drinking herself to puking, Love lures us into a dark world of great pain. She introduces us to a lover from her distant past - 'The Paedo'.

In the show Love quotes the Oscar Wilde saying 'Everthing in the world is about sex except sex.  Sex is about power.' Having never spent more than 6 months alone, it is possible nobody understands this better than Love. Hell Is Other People is definitely adult content so don't bring the kiddies.

2.5 Stars

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