It’s a question that haunts every relationship but becomes heightened in Where I Go (When I Can’t be Where I Am) written by Chris Thorpe and conceived and directed by Rachel Bagshaw.
The piece is inspired by Bagshaw’s direct experience of living with chronic pain as a result of complex regional pain syndrome and focusses on a woman (played with understated, matter-of-fact yet emotionally layered brilliance by Hannah McPake) who embarks on a new relationship. But it is a relationship in which a third is always present: pain.
I saw an hour-long version of this show at the Edinburgh fringe in 2017, a production that went onto to tour including to Wilton’s in London. It was, I thought at the time, a fascinating exercise in empathy, and that remains true in this 18-minute digital version. Even more so. But this digital version has such an intensity of focus, allowing you so directly inside the woman’s head that it becomes clear that the transposition to film is far more than a simple transference in a shortened version.
It is a distillation, and one that courtesy of Melanie Wilson’s sound and Joshua Pharo’s video design creates the sense in the viewer that you are genuinely experiencing the world through someone else’s ears, eyes and brain, a woman who finds herself living her life as if “tuned to a radio station I can’t switch off.” She is you and me, just with the dial jammed.
The sound and visuals combine with captioning to create a piece that like Platform 4’s Invisible Music about hearing loss, is fully textured. The screen appears to jump and tingle; the ears are pulled back. A sense of isolation creeps up over the 18 minutes. One of the great things about the piece is the way it shines a light on a misunderstood, under-reported and under-treated condition but is also a love story that everyone can immediately relate to. The cunning is the way that it entwines the two. After all, we all know the pain of a broken heart.
Produced by China Plate and part of the BBC Culture in Quarantine series, this is a piece with the impact of a stone dropped in a mill pond. It ripples and ripples.
You can watch Where I Go (When I Can’t be Where I Am) here on BBC iPlayer.
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