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Theatre Review: Imprint

Do you miss Push 2019? HOME Digital Reporter Rhona Brown reviews festival theatre show Imprint from the talented collective Young Identity…

A seven strong cast is already on stage as we enter, still and silent. I’m curious about what they’re holding, perhaps family photos, blown up and colour copied. I imagine what I’d hold if in their place. Whose images, what colours, blood family, heart family? Before the action begins, Imprint is already inviting me to wonder about identity and connect with others I carry inside.

As the action starts, the performers seem to have heard my thoughts. Individually at first, the photocopies are dropped, picked up again, collected, discarded. Then movement and exchange. Sheets offered to one another, swapped, dropped again, shoved from one set of hands to another, shuffled, grabbed back. These emblems of self are distributed and merged amongst the group.

Sounds of breathing become amplified. Moments of intentional hyperventilation prompt a visceral response in me. I notice my own tensions, bodily discomforts, the tummy rumbles of those around me and the proximity of strangers in neighbouring seats. My own anxiety lurches as an individual stands alone, precariously, on a folding chair.

A white fabric-covered box variously contains heads, muffles words, alters the timbre of the actor’s voice. Does the box lend us protection or does it isolate and separate? At times a hidden face shouts louder; the force of the anonymous. Boxes multiply and are held, carried, rested on, spoken into, handed on in a carousel motion, stacked.  I wish I had my own box.

Each actor has a solo piece in addition to moving and speaking together as a chorus rising and falling in aural and physical intensity. I hadn’t expected the work to be so tightly choreographed and so physical. At one point they move together in a meld of action and reaction, connecting, caressing, embracing, holding, lifting, abruptly dropping. The action is compelling and at times takes my attention from the words.

But some stand out – a disembodied voice speaking of how we embody our parents’ trauma. An emphatic “legacy and parentage are utter bullshit!” follows. Performers proclaim “we aren’t the same” but return to the intersubjective – “shape shifting like face marks, your smile is part mine”. A retired Daily Mail editor gets a specific mention.

Another visceral moment arrives when a performer gags and retches – “throw up their words”, allowing surrender to one’s own voice. “Recognise that the hatred and fear Is not ours – it does not serve us!”

The motif “happiness is here if you want it” runs through the whole piece. We can ignore and keep invisible structures and forces that forge our identity. We can choose to limit our view from inside a box populated by materiality, pre-digested media messages and entertainment. Is that where happiness is?

Social realities, positioning and power can remain muted or distorted. Imprint invites us to converse with ourselves and honour what’s shaped us – “no hands could possibly heal you more than your own”.  They also implore us to care – “The opposite of love is not hate – it is indifference”.

Imprint was part of Push 2019. The festival showcased talent from around the North West. Find out more here.