Gazes at Chapel Playhouse Theatre, Kings Cross – Image: Contributed
Venue: Chapel Playhouse Theatre, Kings Cross
Performance Date: 01 February 2020
Star Rating: ★★
Reviewer: Leyla Demirel
Impossible Theatre, a new theatre company created by Candice Morel presents their first production, Gazes, running for one more show at the Chapel Playhouse in Kings Cross. Written by and starring Candice Morel and directed by Alexiane Cazenave, Gazes is a one-woman and one-act show that delves into the life of a famous cabaret dancer Miss Penney Penney (Annie). The piece explores that a life that at first glance is seemingly perfect but as the narrative progresses proves to be shrouded with darkness beneath the surface.
The opening of the performance is staged as if the audience is watching the cabaret in which Annie is performing. Despite the over-dramatic, sometimes messy choreography and somewhat awkward stripping of clothing which makes her line of work abundantly clear, it sets the scene for a story of fame and notoriety mixed with deep inner turmoil and unhappiness. One song feels enough to express this, and the opening dance sequences begin to feel a little long; and by the end of the second song, there is an uncomfortable feeling of watching someone who is half-naked continue to messily dance around.
Once the narrative begins to hit its stride, the piece attempts to cover some rather dark and interesting themes – including dealing with loss, mental health, and sexual assault. These scenes are intense and well delivered, however, they are only touched on briefly – assumedly due to the short length of the play itself. The internal monologues recited by Morel give an insight into the struggles her character is facing and what leads to the sad yet predictable ending.
The show itself feels more like an unfinished production and is sadly a bit clumsy and manic at times. With the show short in duration, Morel appears to rush through her dialogue, using overenthusiastic gestures to emphasise what is being said. It is unclear if this is a blend of Morel’s own traits, or her acting choices selected to display the manic mentality the character, but the effect leaves the already short show at 45 minutes feeling rushed.
There is also some confusion at times whether the scenes she is acting are flashbacks, dreams or the present day. Furthermore, the scenes when Morel is acting against herself, portraying two characters together come across confusing as there is little change in characterisation between the two, other than a hunched over back and stroking of her chin for when she is not playing Annie. However, capturing and keeping an audience’s attention in a one-woman show presents a challenge, which Morel successfully manages to do from start to finish, despite the confusing elements.
Overall, when watching the play, it is easy to see how much potential it holds and with more time and development, it could become something quite remarkable, and really speak out on issues that could still be as relevant today as they were back when burlesque and cabarets were at their peak. However, for the time being, this show feels rough around the edges and leaves a disheartening feeling of being underwhelmed.
What the piece successfully achieves, and where its strengths lie is in questioning and challenging the fine line between femininity and sexuality and how external factors and attitudes can cause huge emotional and internal turmoil. Yes, Gazes may need a little polishing, but it is an original piece with bags of potential.
Chapel Playhouse Theatre, Kings Cross run: 31 January – 02 February 2020