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I Look: I Divine
Published on Thursday, 23 May 2013

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3 stars

Marlborough Theatre (venue website)
21-24 May, 7:30pm-8:30pm
Reviewed by Ben Aitken

 Warning: Contains strong language.
 Warning: Contains flashing lights.
 Suitable for age 16+ only.

Mark Kydd’s one-man, semi-autobiographical show is a taut and lucid piece of storytelling that concerns the trials and traumas of two pairs of gay brothers: one from either side of the Atlantic, one from either side of fiction.

The Marlborough Theatre is in the habit of offering a strong programme each Fringe, and Dermot McLaughlin’s production - which is Kydd’s writing and directing debut - does not feel out of place. The juxtaposition of two narratives, of two continents, of two rivalries, is controlled well by Kydd, and the design and direction are kept enjoyably straightforward. (A simple light change, for example, shifts the action to New York.)

Autobiography will always mean more to its author than its audience. As Kydd confidently goes about revealing the difficulties and dramas of being gay in 70s Dundee, I couldn’t help but reflect that such events and circumstances, however keenly felt by their protagonist, don’t take on a shared significance or meaning simply for actually having happened. In short, by telling one’s own story - as opposed to inventing one - one runs the risk of keeping the audience at an arm’s length.

And so it is here. Despite Kydd’s capacity to portray multiple characters, and despite the clever interweaving of another narrative (Christopher Coe’s I Look Divine, an ‘obsure 80s novel’), I couldn’t help but feel a little on the periphery of things. A story needs hooks if it is to catch the attention and stir the emotions of its audience, and this story, perhaps because of its truthfulness, didn’t quite catch or stir mine.

I Look: I Divine is evidence of an artist with a real chunk of talent. The writing is crisp, the performance equally so. But its content - its thrust - left me a little cold. I have a feeling that Kydd’s work will have greater impact when he starts lying to everyone.

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