Beyond Ourselves

"High aspirations, but falls short"

A group of recent performing arts graduates take over an empty space with the intention of creating something. Anything, it doesn't matter what, why, or how. A task that proves to ask more questions than it answers - including the primary focus: is art created for ourselves, or others? We join this small cohort as they explore new obstacles and challenge their drive and determination to overcome them.

This show has high aspirations but, just like some of its characters, it falls short at the first hurdle.

Jacob Rayner Blair pioneers the central message of the piece: that art doesn't need to exist for an audience, or to serve a purpose. However it is being performed in front of an audience... for the purpose of preaching this message. And it does feel a little like we're there to learn a lesson based on recreations of real life scenarios rather than witnessing these experiences unfold in real time, and through the characters genuine lens.

This would be especially nice as the actors all bring such distinct personalities to the stage, with standout performances from the funny and fiery Caoimhe Mackin, and Annabel Worsfold who shows the most emotion through the cast, ranging from cackling laughter to real tears. 

As there are many shows currently running that demonstrate the struggle of the modern artist, unfortunately I can't recommend this one specifically, as the storyline is quite superficial and the character backgrounds lack depth. The script (by Andrew Muir) includes nods to racism, homophobia, and the current conversations surrounding pronouns and gender identity, that seems to exist simply for the sake of acknowledging them rather than actually adding value to the characters or their intentions. 

One very positive aspect of this show was the set design which utilises the black box space in such a way that it feels homey, and larger than it really is. I applaud this because studio spaces with smaller auditoriums often create a feeling of distance between the actors and audience, which Beyond Ourselves thankfully avoided.

The lighting was also well done, with Charlie Speck using the rather basic rig in a very visceral way, which was key to keeping the audience engaged to counter the sometimes lacking pace of dialogue. 

Eddie Drummond’s performance of the finale (and only) song was the best moment in the show, as it felt uplifting and hopeful, and showcased the passion behind what is undeniably an important message, but one that wasn't the most thought provoking to watch during the scenes.

The show runs at just over an hour but it does feel much longer. If you are a fan of any of the cast or crew I'd definitely recommend going to support as they do a brilliant job with the material they're given, however it wasn't quite my cup of tea.

This show was reviewed on the 9th November 2023.  Beyond Ourselves runs at the Union Theatre, London until the 12th November 2023.  Tickets available here: Beyond Ourselves | Union Theatre

Review written by Katie McConnell

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Photo credit: Mark Douet

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