Sand, glitter, sweat, and tears. This is a love story, told with a frank and brutal messiness. Born from the creative partnership of performance artist Faith Brandon and award-winning theatre director Jonathan Young, Love Me or I’ll Kill Myself is an ambitious new production, which blends the autobiographical trajectory of Faith’s love life, with an experimental one-woman performance piece. Exploring the things that we do to make us believe we can control love, Faith delves into the devastating lengths we’ll go to, and the destructive capacity of our desires. Above all, this is a play which explores the vulnerability created by intimacy, and the tangled entrenchment of love and hope which can lead to both salvation and despair. A striking Fringe debut, Faith delivers a dark and witty insight into the human condition through a generally captivating, if at times somewhat stilted, performance.
The play opens with an interesting gambit, whereby an audience member is selected to partake in the “36 questions to make you fall in love”, pioneered by Arthur Aron. From here, the selected viewer becomes the second role in this otherwise one-woman show, appearing numerous times throughout the performance to answer questions from the pack of cards. From a “30 second summary of your life story”, to “your most vivid memory”, the questions are designed to produce a fast intimacy, and provide the bedrock from which Faith launches her performance. A risky move, which leaves a significant amount of the play’s opening energy down to the day, these questions nonetheless provided an interesting starting point and certainly introduced some of the key themes of the play. Her opening hypothesis, that she could get this audience member to “fall madly in love with her by the end of the play”, is then humorously weaved throughout the rest of the performance.
Faith hits her stride, however, in the second half of the performance, where the strength of her storytelling breathes a vivid, almost painful, lucidity into the story arc. Describing meeting her ex-partner for the first time in Barcelona, Faith brings to life a first date, a motorbike ride, and a club night through an inventive use of props and staging. Using just an old motorcycle helmet, she creates the outline of the man she fell in love with, using soundscapes and well-choreographed moving sequences to capture the initial joy of the relationship. As this joy shifts to hatred and jealousy, the stage becomes a visceral incarnation of her inner despair, erupting in a mess of sand and glitter, which becomes the backdrop to the spiralling emotions acted out on stage.
Powerfully, the play knowingly mocks the destructiveness of our societal norms – born of rom-coms and magazines – that tell us we can control love, as her attempts to enact the “six steps to get your ex back” are satirically placed before a turn to black magic – suggesting just how meaningless these self-advice articles can be. Describing how these attempts led to a breakdown, and a formally written psychiatric letter, the final portion of the play is acted out through the symbolism of a bath bomb: an entertaining, no doubt beautiful ending, the fizzling bath bomb leaves the audience in a completive silence, which is certainly necessary whilst digesting the dark and captivating nature of this performance.
Love Me or I’ll Kill Myself is performing at ZOO Playground, Aug 11-15, 17-28.
Image: Alex Brenner, provided to The Student as a press image.