In the latest Creative Minds blog, Katy Cracknell reviews Just a Few Words which was at the Unlimited Festival, Southbank Centre in September. The performance was performed, directed and written by solo artist Nye Russel-Thompson.
The performance started with a record playing that was scratched, which created a nice metaphor for someone with a stammer. The solo performance was about him sharing his experiences and frustrations with stammering. During the performance he adds humour by taking the mickey out of himself and shows that he doesn’t always take himself too seriously.
Russell-Thompson clearly shows his frustration with his stammering, as he would try to distract himself by changing the subject or by using a card. The cards become a consistent prop throughout his performance, as it is a direct way for the performer to communicate his message with the audience. I noticed that he was being harsh on himself with the messages that he was displaying and there was something quite vulnerable about him. His vulnerability was mirrored through his body language on stage, which changed when sharing his difficulties with stammering.
I can relate to his difficulties because I used to have a stammer when I was in secondary school. I was teased for this in my first year in school; I found it difficult to say certain letters such as W or G. This perhaps made me relate more to the artist and understand the awkwardness that surrounds stammering. It can feel awkward when someone has speech difficulties because it takes longer for them to communicate what they want to say and how long a listener should wait to assist them.
At one point he tells a story of a time when he is with his girlfriend and he wants to say that she is beautiful and he can’t because he knew he would stammer. In between attempting to tell his story he would get frustrated and use cards to communicate the words. The card represented his struggles but also supported his story-telling and process.
The production took place in the blue room, which is a small studio space at the back of the Royal Festival Hall. When I turned up to wait for the show to start I noticed that it was sold out and there was a good turn out of audience, I was lucky that I was able to get a ticket.
The staging for the production was basic with blacked out curtains and a spotlight for the performer to stand in the middle of the stage. There was a TV screen on the side of the stage, which provided a Speech-to-Text-transcription.
The performance worked well, being in a smaller theatre with a smaller audience, I believe that the performer was able to create an atmosphere that allowed him to be intimate and truthful. This led to the audience feeling comfortable and perhaps more understanding of his experiences.