For our August Cog Night the team returned to one of our favourite venues to see Stuart Bowden’s Wilting in Reverse at Soho Theatre. There had been promises of “vigorous dancing, understandable words and a fair bit of profound (if not life changing) body movements”. The team was pretty excited.
We were seated in the small, if not cosy, Soho Upstairs (where we’d seen Bears in Space a year before) excitedly waiting for the show to start. The stage was set with a single chair and some small musical instruments to the left. A big black curtain separates us from backstage. There’s faint choir music in the background and every now and then you see someone peeping through gaps in the curtain.
The lights dim and Stuart Bowden’s voice emerges from behind the curtain, informing us that the year is 2084 and that Stuart Bowden, who passed the year before, has written this story about the last few years of his life. With this story, Stuart Bowden will come back to life, in this moment he will be Wilting in Reverse.
On that note Stuart Bowden comes onto the stage, wearing a green ski mask, dancing vigorously. After a big finish he rushes backstage and emerges again, script in hand, ready to tell us the story of Stuart Bowden, the man who spent years of his life on a distant planet along with a colony of people, struggling for water. He informs us that we, the audience, will in this moment be his friends on that distant planet and that we are all gathered in This Moment, the community building in the colony where we come every night to listen to Stuart Bowden’s story.
Always referring to the script, sometimes surprised by what he’s reading, Stuart Bowden tells us his story. It is a story of love and heartbreak but also of hope, which he communicates to us through a combination of dialogue, song and body movements. The performance is peppered with improvised lines, comical looks and brilliantly executed audience participation. He throws in some songs that tug at your heartstrings. His loop pedal, used to create the effect of a choir and orchestra, works extremely well in this quirky show.
The slightly absurd story sweeps you up and Stuart Bowden’s brilliant storytelling has you on the edge of tears one moment and belly laughing the next. The show did indeed live up to its promise – highly recommended!