• Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Fringe 2023: The Death and Life of All of Us

ByOlivia Fischer

Aug 8, 2023
Image of Esses standing on stageVictor Esses

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Have you ever met an Italian Jew?… Have you ever felt lost, lonely, or unsupported?… Have you ever felt like somebody’s secret?”

Upon entering the Demonstration Room at Summerhall, you are immediately intrigued by the man standing centre stage in a haze of smoke. A projection soon introduces you to Victor Esses and a list of things he wants you to know about him. We are also introduced to his great aunt, Marcelle, who Esses interviewed many, many years ago and who has since passed. Esses’s journey to Rome to interview her began as a documentary but what Esses has been able to accomplish with The Death and Life of All of Us is so much more. 

Told using art projections, live music, movement and videos, The Life and Death of All of Us is less about Marcelle and more about Esses’s sense of belonging as he steps into his queerness. Having said that, the show couldn’t exist without Marcelle’s presence in the room, whose warmth and love for Esses as well as her avoidance of Esses’s sexuality, permeates throughout. The entanglements crafted are so intricate, so balanced that it feels as if one story could not exist without the other. And is that not the simple, unchanging truth of family trees? 

The delicacy with which Esses wrote and performed this piece is a rare form of artistry. There are not many plays this fringe that are this gentle, and it is both the show and Esses’s greatest strength. The audience is invited to read between the lines, the interviews, the videos, and the music, rather than having its meaning fed to us. This is further embedded in the play as we are asked to answer questions Esses poses at different intervals. We can imagine our own sense of belonging amongst the many questions Esses raises around family, secrets, and trust. We are invited to carve our own meanings out of the roots Esses uncovers and buries. What an utter delight it is to receive a performance that trusts its audiences so willingly. What Victor Esses offers in The Death and Life of All of Us is both a love letter to his great aunt and a gift to us all.

The Death and Life of All of Us is on at Summerhall, the Demonstration room, from the 2-27of August, at 11:30. Tickets available here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/death-life-of-all-of-us

Image courtesy of Greta Mitchell, provided to The Student as press material.