This Bitch Can Heal, VAULT Festival

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By Evangeline Cullingworth

Jack is hurtling forwards, desperately striving to fix mistakes from their childhood, arguments with their girlfriend, and now climate change. This movement needs them, and they need an excuse to keep moving. We meet Jack in the middle of the London Rebellion, the 10 days of peaceful civil disobedience organised by Extinction Rebellion in April last year. They jump onto their bicycle late at night and begin to hurtle forward, away from the scrutiny they’re under at home.

This Bitch Can Heal is a tight, slick monologue written and performed by Tamsin Osmond, and the physical exertion of pumping away on the stationary road bicycle allows for a tender vulnerability to appear through the brash and excitable character. The initial descriptions of Extinction Rebellion’s work as “so much better than anything before” and an almost mythic depiction of Greta Thunberg give way to a more nuanced understanding of the action we all need to take against the climate crisis, and an awareness of who it is affecting beyond Marble Arch.

There’s a playful use of lighting which draws us into Jack’s world, capturing the multi-coloured excitement of the occupations and the memories that nag away at them. Osmond’s performance is underscored by electronic music improvised on stage by Rob DesRoches. The sound captures the epic scale of the political movement, but it’s not clear how the score is linked to Jack’s personal journey. The abstract tones fumble at key moments of narrative development and leave us splitting our attention between both. There is potential here for a great duet, and there’s scope for  recognition of the stage space shared between the two performers.

Dani Dinger’s detailed direction captures the electric joy of feeling a call to participate in collective action, and smartly navigates Jack’s impulses and reactions. Together this ensemble has created a fascinating portrait of a young person measuring up their identity between what they believe and what they’ve been told. The scale of the crisis is overwhelming, and fighting our government is exhausting, but This Bitch Can Heal shows that change can come from individual action and our immediate community.

This Bitch Can Heal runs through 30 January.

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