Cecile Da Costa begins The Narrator by counting. She counts the latecomers, the French theatre-goers, the number of women, the number of journalists. Finally, she counts the number of unborn children she has had: three. Spitfire Theatre describe their show as a visualisation of “the deep memories the body cannot forget.” What follows is a visceral look at these imprints, which are always left unnervingly unexplained.
As the play unfolds, Da Costa uses her formidable physicality and haunting voice to give expression to these memories. At times the ineffability of her experience is alienating, but then she recaptures our attention with sweet song, or with more strange twists. Particularly captivating is her use of several glass boxes which line he take, containing materials of varying consistencies. There is gravel, sand, water, and boxes with nothing in them at all. Da Costa’s interaction with them is fascinating. What variant of experience do they represent? We can only guess.
Da Costa’s physical strength is also breathtaking. She uses a hammer to painstakingly smash through a pile of bricks, determined to get to herself. In the end, having immersed herself in water and coated herself in sand, she rips up to stage to create a mirror along its back edge. She stands before it, exhausted, creating a vision of identity that leaves an impression long after the show has ended.