When I took my seat in the Lakeside Theatre last night to watch the current studio slot Above Me, I knew I’d be in for a rough ride. The show was advertised as tackling the psychological trauma related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, gender identity and suicide. Heavy, hard-hitting subjects to say the least. There was even a sign at the Box Office warning viewers that the content they were about to see may cause distress. But nothing, absolutely nothing could prepare me for the emotional onslaught that was to ensue.
Above Me is a University of Essex homegrown piece, written and choreographed by former student Paige Blastock (directed by fellow student John Stammers). Far from a traditional theatre script, it takes the form of a choreographed poem in its exploration of three female characters (portrayed by llaria Smiderle, Sarah-Beth Mackie and Victoria Kravchenko) each victims of their own psychological trauma. Above Me didn’t shy away or tip-toe around the issues at hand. Not only did we hear each woman’s battle through beautifully written, heart-wrenching monologues, but we saw their battles depicted through effortless, honest movement pieces that were at times too hard to watch. Too painfully true. A further window into the reality of domestic abuse and sexual assault was offered through poignant interludes; beautiful but unbearable moments of physical theatre (performed by Ellie Dunn and Jack Bullions) depicting how a seemingly perfect, adorable relationship can be plagued with control and manipulation.
Above Me is advertised as diving head first into the issues of adversity women face at the hands of society, and my gosh it did just that. I anticipated hearing harrowing accounts, painful content, maybe leaving my seat shedding the odd tear. I didn’t expect these plights to be visualised before my very eyes, each battle unmistakable, identifiable. I didn’t expect to feel everything that I felt just two minutes into the forty-five minute performance.
For writing a piece so poignant, beautiful and so brutally honest, Paige Blastock deserves unprecedented praise. Above all, an unprecedented thank you.
Did you attend last night’s performance of Above Me? If so and you would like to share your thoughts on the piece, please feel free to do so in our comments section below.