That Is Not Who I Am proves an enjoyably twisty thriller at the Royal Court, which perhaps aptly you’ll enjoy more or less depending on how online you are…
“Just cos it’s in your imagination doesn’t mean it’s not real”
Having taken myself off Twitter for personal purposes (I only tweet reviews these days), the whole brou-ha-ha about the Royal Court’s That Is Not Who I Am had completely passed me by. But a post-show chat and an online shufti on the way home revealed just how much people had managed to lose their shit over what really didn’t seem to be that big of a deal.
Platforming the pseudonym of an established writer as the promotion of a brand new writer is a mis-step to be sure, especially in this theatrical economy, but noses were only ever out of joint, not broken. And the public Twitter spats over the nature of the publicity campaign were highly unedifying on both sides – I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by having abandoned the blue bird.
Which all had this bizarre after-the-fact effect on how I thought about the play, at least for my journey home. In and of itself, I found it to be quite an enjoyable twisty conspiracy thriller. Spoilers ahead now…it turns out that Dave Davidson’s That Is Not Who I Am is actually Lucy Kirkwood’s Rapture, a play which has been embargoed by the Home Office due to its highly sensitive nature, hence all the ‘subterfuge’.
And as we follow Noah (Jake Davies) and Celeste (Siena Kelly) from Guardian-subsidised first date to highly suspicious death, we track an intriguing journey into paranoid radicalisation, worsened by lockdown and fomented by YouTube bubbles. That they’re a former soldier and nurse heightens the tragedy, particularly as they’re so engagingly sweet and believable as a couple.
Kirkwood doubles down on the tricksiness of her play though by inserting herself as a character (and then again as a character…). And Priyanga Burford is excellent here, as she probes into how the story we’re seeing has been constructed, pointing out how subjective truth can be, and how hard-fought revealing it is in the face of governmental obstruction.
Lucy Morrison’s production excels on this meta-theatrical plane, the nuts and bolts of Naomi Dawson’s revolving house design deliberately on show as the stage management team build and rebuild accordingly, pointing up once again how all stories are fabricated one way or another. A final coup de grâce is perhaps unnecessary but the scrolling credits of the end are great, and a pointed reminder of what happens when you’re too online.