Genevieve Murphy: I Don’t Want To Be An Individual All On My Own

Memories of a mysterious children's birthday party

from: ★★ Francine van der Wiel, NRC, 3 nov 2020

In itself, Murphy's memories of a childhood birthday full of enigmatic figures are atmospheric, though for the most part it could be enjoyed with the eyes closed.

She is a child, mother and grandmother, performer, composer and musician. Genevieve Murphy smoothly combines the roles in her new performance I don't want to be an individual all on my own, which she made under the umbrella of Nicole Beutler Projects. After the theaters closed in the spring, the premiere has, like so many performances, been moved to the autumn edition of the Spring Utrecht dance and performance festival, Spring in Autumn.

I don't want to be… is - more than a truly theatrical performance - a listening performance. The audience is equipped with headphones, Murphy produces sounds that correspond to certain words while she recalls childhood memories of a birthday from different perspectives. Nose whistles, kazoo, balloons, breathing, children's saxophone - all kinds of means are used. She also creates, as a kind of foley artist, sound effects that suggest rain or thunderstorms. Her childhood memories are full of puzzling figures: a strange man with a baby hiding in the holly of the unknown in the garden, her grandfather who had to give up the priesthood because he fell in love, a terrifying artist friend of her mother's , her alcoholic grandmother.

The core of the performance lies in the changing narrative perspectives: Murphy, who often chooses psychological themes, especially those in which human incapability plays a role, wants to show how empathy works. How a child experiences that others are also different and experience things differently. How a mother experiences a child's party and perceives her fellow parents. How a grandmother reached for the bottle because of her heartbreaking life experiences.

In itself it is an atmospheric story, but one that, for the most part, could just as well be enjoyed with eyes closed. As a theater performance, however, I don't want to be…, certainly in the long run, is not very interesting, except for the scene where Murphy shows an impressive control of her facial muscles.

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