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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2011 arrow Steal Compass, Drive North, Disappear
Steal Compass, Drive North, Disappear
Published on Friday, 19 August 2011

3 stars

Zoo Southside (venue website)
Dance and Physical Theatre
16-28 Aug, 4:00pm-5:00pm
Reviewed by Sarah Hill

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

Steal Compass, Drive North, Disappear forms the second instalment of Stillpoint’s Triptych: Three Attempts at Love – a trio of solo works that, in the company’s own words, seek to traverse ‘the human predicament of the struggle to love.’ It helps to know this beforehand, as the intention of the piece will make far more sense. It may also explain why Steal Compass felt oddly directionless and incomplete, leaving me entertained and confused in equal measure.

This one-woman piece tells the story of a man, Martin; an annoyingly charming chauvinist whose overbearing vanity and flourishing professional life leaves his personal relationships in tatters. The story is outlined not only from Martin’s perspective but from a framework of female influences – his betrayed wife, neglected daughter, irritated biographer and frustrated lover – all embodied by the same performer. Through these characters – their voice-mails, conversations and moments of direct engagement with the audience – we come to understand Martin’s attitude to life, before he goes on a learning curve of his own and attempts to mend his ways.

Rachel Blackman is certainly a charismatic stage presence; there is something about her performance that is mesmerising, even during moments of complete stillness. Her ability to deftly switch between roles – from an uncanny child to a surprisingly convincing man without the need for drag – certainly showcases her ample talent as a character actor.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to disguise a baggy script. Whilst the writing has its strong points – Blackman evidently has a keen ear for dialogue – it desperately lacked direction. What started out as the story of one man’s struggle felt increasingly diluted and unjustifiably focussed on other characters. Martin’s biographer’s nationality is heavily dwelt on, but fails to gain genuine dramatic resonance. Elsewhere in the script, seeming trivialities – why Martin’s lover calls him from Euro-Disney, for example – were given emphasis and yet passed by unexplained. I was left wondering whose story this really was.

Blackman’s physical ability is further evident through both mime and brief sections of movement. Utilised only sparsely, however, these elements felt oddly throwaway. To my mind, this is a case of all or nothing: like Martin himself, Steal Compass seemed afraid to commit itself to any one definitive stylistic device or even character, dabbling in several simultaneously and spreading itself too thin.

This story of human imperfection is engaging in parts and not without charm. Yet, whilst Rachel Blackman’s ability to hold her own is admirable, for me, she sent out rather mixed signals. The idea of a one-woman piece about a man is an interesting concept in itself, but Steal Compass failed to stand to these convictions, ultimately losing itself along the way.

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