Review: 110mph at NST City

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Uncomfortable

The rawness of emotion throughout the show is hard-hitting and places you in the centre of her world, but there are moments where you are not entirely comfortable watching this.

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The Make It So festival running at the Nuffield Southampton Theatre City showcases works from practising artists in the Southampton and surrounding Hampshire areas. 110mph is based on a true story written by Estelle Clarke, a practising writer and poet, that recounts a fatal car crash and her journey from that moment through to recovery and life now. Clarke collaborates with Paul Bevan to produce this show, with Bevan lending his expertise with photography, film making, and music.

The show is quite different than what one would have expected and is less a tradition theatre play, instead we are treated to a one-woman spoken word piece paired with film that, although quite short in length, is quite powerful. The combination of a singular performer on a dimply lit stage, only illuminated by a spotlight with a projection behind her means multiple senses are treated the the show. The words take centre stage, with the film providing an interesting but not vital background, and the range of dynamic or subtle sounds from the music, breathing, and crumpling of papers as she recounts the story means there is always happening.

A one-woman performance was refreshing as it meant the focus was entirely on her and the power she spoke with was enticing. With every word there was a force behind it and an emotion that came through, and in combination with the tragic parts of the story meant we were leaning forward and being engrossed to this whirlwind of a tragedy. The content of the story is hard hitting and we understand her feelings of shame, disgust, and loneliness, whilst there are also moments of determination, willingness, and joy. It is the complete mix of emotions that allows this story to be so tangible and realistic, something the audience can, in parts, relate to. Although we haven’t all been in a car crash, these emotions are universal and we have all felt them to some degree at some time.

As well as the power within the words, there is extreme merit in pairing this with the visual of the cinematic projection throughout the piece. Though opening drone shots of a mundane early morning across residential locations and roads are calm and peaceful, but this is flipped as soon as shout cues the music to stop and the crash to happen on screen. The burst of light is something we cannot look directly at and in that moment the audience are made uncomfortable and share the feelings of confusion that ring true in the real incident. The darkest moments of the narrative are accompanied by close-up black and white shots of indistinguishable objects and people, but by the end with the promise of life and joy, we are treated to vibrant images on screen and happier, more colourful shots that perfectly exemplify the challenging journey of recovery as well as the happiness it can lead to.

Clarke has crafted a powerful and emotionally intertwining show that creates and impact but is at times quite uncomfortable. The use of silence and the intimacy between the audience and this singular figure on stage speaking into a microphone where every sound of her mouth and every breath is amplified creates an atmosphere that is quite eerie and uncomfortable. Although it feels quite strange, it adds to the journey of the narrative and means the audience is never comfortable, instead they are drawn towards the performance and at the will of Clarke, ready for every twist, turn, and shock.

110mph is show that is extremely raw and honest, and provides an interesting and emotional exploration into what a journey to recovery can look like, and the raw emotions felt by those in that situation. However, it is definitely a weird show and not what I would have expected. In its experimental nature, it definitely could be one to check out, but I would enjoy to see this more in a slightly different format. Although it was definitely informative and educational, there was something within the format of how it was presented that felt a bit too uncomfortable for me to watch again.

Enjoyable wouldn’t accurately describe it, but perhaps we aren’t meant to enjoy it. Perhaps the Clarke’s aim was to make you uncomfortable with the honestly and brutality of what a journey to recovery can look like.

To keep up with Estelle Clarke, head to her blog here. The Make It So festival runs until the 29th February and more information is available here.

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Third year English and Film student. Dog obsessed, tea drinking, and rewatching anything I can to pass the time.

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