Review: A State of Mind at Tristan Bates

Alyce Louise-Potter A State of Mind August 2017

By Michael Spring

If you’re in the neighbourhood of Seven Dials this week around 6.15pm, then it might well be worth your while taking in A State of Mind at the Tristan Bates Theatre.

This 50 minute show, in which Alyce Potter plays Billie, has presence, depth and spirit. It’s not an entirely comfortable experience – a lifetime unravels before your eyes – but it is revealing and like the life it describes, isn’t tidy or well-defined.

Instead, despite Billie’s cackling laugh which is anything but comic and which punctuates the performance, it takes life with all its ragged, jagged edges and stuffs it irreverently under our noses.

Billie’s attempts at a resolution of her difficulties – self-inflicted often, as she confesses – are pathetically inadequate, a dam made of paper to stem the roaring flood tide of circumstance. But those attempts are valiant nevertheless and her bravery in confronting issues which began in her adolescence with an unwanted pregnancy and continue to the present, makes you feel that her heart must be as big as a whale’s. Unfortunately, her capacity for anger is just as marked.

We take in a lot of territory through the performance. Recreational drugs, rape, abortion, love, loneliness and separation all feature as part of this discussion of the human condition, revealed inch by inch by one who, having become a grandmother, in a sense becomes a child once more.

In this drama of life, will the cycle ever be broken? Will shame simply be added to shame and an endless blame game inflict its damage through the generations? Or does some of the wreckage of a life eventually add up to a kind of meaning?

You’ll have to make your own decision on that.

For more details on A State of Mind, until Saturday 12 August at 6.15pm, Tristan Bates Theatre, London, and to buy tickets visit camdenfringe.com.

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