Since U Been Gone has a gentle warmth in its poetry. Writer and performer Teddy, against Pete Butler’s neon backdrop, addresses you. ‘You’ being both us as audience members, and their friend who is no longer here – gone.
While completely separate people in their narrative, Teddy addresses both with the same engaging humour, affection and rigour. As an autobiographical tale of self-discovery, their open letter to their friend and to us reveals two striking forms of honesty: to thank a pal for friendship which shaped them, and to proudly display that identity to us as an audience. As they speak, we watch as Teddy shakes off a pale white boiler suit in search of a more comfortable fit, a vibrant visual metaphor for their journey.
Yet, ‘journey’ implies an A to B, and it’s relative to Teddy’s dream of a world “where gender isn’t a destination” that Since U Been Gone doesn’t feel like the past and doesn’t look too much to the present. It instead, under Billy Barrett’s direction, hones in on a constant present – the exciting now. We see it in the delivery of eloquent, conversational dialogue, when the corners of their mouth turn upwards at the thought of a humorous moment. Everything feels live, the emotions current and real.
While such openness may sound tender and sombre, all of this is given a melodic pop undercurrent courtesy of musician Nicol Parkinson, who plays humming, hypnotic notes on the guitar in the corner of the stage. It not only taps into a narrative dotted with pop culture references (from the Spice Girls to America‘s Next Top Model), but further draws us into Teddy’s monologue. When the music stops, it strikes a chord, whether it be a moment for Teddy to compose themselves, or at the play’s conclusion, with the last sentence striking the perfect final note.
Since U Been Gone is now playing at VAULT Festival until 9 February.
Disclaimer: I saw Since U Been Gone for free in exchange for a review as someone who is currently a part of VAULT Festival’s Emerging Critics scheme. I did not receive any payment for my involvement in the scheme or for this review, and all opinions stated above are honest and my own.