dressed. @ Traverse Theatre

Image Contribution:
Lidia Crissafulli

Co-created by: Josie Dale-Jones, Lydia Higginson, Nobahar Mahdavi & Olivia NorrisReviewer: Dominic Corr

As reviewers, we have a duty to treat the subjects surrounding the Me-Too movement and rape with individual respect. No longer resigning them to a sub-category of themes. Every production invites us to hear experiences, told in a multitude of fashions. They can be direct, symbolic, animated and often abstract. Each deserves to be separate – not clumped together in amalgamated clickbait. With this said dressed. is Lydia Higginson’s story.

At nineteen Lydia was stripped at gunpoint. The overseas home she was staying in broken into by armed robbers, the contents raided, building smashed apart and violent assault of both Lydia and the homeowner. The details aren’t provided – they aren’t required. Lydia has been stripped, but this production isn’t about that. It’s about Lydia learning to get dressed.

This isn’t where we start, however. The people with whom Lydia has grown – we see them from their first encounter at age ten. Lydia Higginson, Josie Dale-Jones, Olivia Norris and Nobahar Mahdavi met whilst at dance class. The production opens with their sense of connection, innocently jovial and exactly how you would expect friends to interact. After her experience, she reaches out to Josie and other friends to come together to tell her story.

As Lydia’s story unfolds, or rather just how she intends in telling it, eyebrows begin to arch. It’s immensely multi-layered, striking out at a variety of theatrical techniques in movement, comedy and lighting design. Each segmented piece is talented but disconnected. We begin to realise though that this is the intended design of the production.

No matter how one chooses to express their experiences is recognised during dressed. Towards the epilogue a beaten down Norris asks Higginson; ‘does this help?’ in reference to the direction of the production. The movement can be absurd, Josie Dale-Jones performance pieces are a noted showcase of this. The inclusion too of humour, rambling gags which seem to be a beartrap for the audience, the tap-dancing Harvey Weinstein’s being a noteworthy example.  Even the sound design at times sits in bewilderment with lengthy drownings of white noise. So, how does this help? For some, it helps. For others it empowers. It’s a coping mechanism for many, a source of experience for the rest. For Lydia, perhaps the push towards abstraction hasn’t helped, and her story instead is weaved (literally) in her sewing.

Reclaiming her agency, Higginson assigns herself the task of creating her entire wardrobe within a year, donating the shop bought items she owned. The value we place in the clothes on our back is extraordinary – it’s armour, the comfort and sentimental value Lydia herself demonstrate in her cocooning of the garments. Already moving, the production elevates at these moments to a fuller connection.

Higginson’s seamstress ability is adept, as are the creative abilities of all. Mahdavi has vocals which, in truth, were unexpected in style but beautifully unique and engaging. Dancer Olivia Norris’ choreography is impressive, even in the more surreal moments of the production – still managing to convey a sense of meaning.

ThisEgg theatre endeavours to tell Lydia’s story, not through the horrific events endured but instead where she is now. There is by no means any attempt to hide the truth, nor to suggest the ease in recovery. The remnants of atrocity are present, as suspected they may forever remain. What is conveyed is the strength in creativity, womanhood and the claiming back of your body and ability that comes from being stripped but getting yourself dressed.

Review originally published for Reviewshub:
https://www.thereviewshub.com/dressed-traverse-theatre-edinburgh/

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