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Deliverance review – a radiant experience of lockdown me-time | Theatre


One of the things they teach playwrights is character development. If your hero is the same person at the end of the play as they were at the beginning, something could be amiss. It’s the same for the audience. With any half-way decent show, you should feel different by the final curtain.

On this basis, Deliverance delivers. It’s a quietly transformative show that changes the atmosphere. What is unusual is that actor and audience are one and the same. They are both you.

The work of Brite Theater’s Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir, it begins at home with a ring on your doorbell. You are then handed a black envelope and asked to open it. Inside is your script.

Boogie time ... Deliverance.
Domestic bliss? A participant in Deliverance.

To say more is as tricky as writing about Ontroerend Goed’s Internal, a show that used the one-on-one format of speed dating to mess with your head. Although the structure of that Belgian show was fixed, the content was created anew by each participant. As a critic, you could describe your own experience but you couldn’t speak for anyone else.

In a similar way, Deliverance is all about you. It would be a weird coincidence if you enjoyed my soundtrack of XTC, Elvis Costello and Scritti Politti (excellent choice though it was), just as it would be impossible for you to take inspiration from the same photograph as me. The script is a series of gentle provocations and the answers are as varied as the individuals who play along.

Where a big chunk of lockdown theatre has treated isolation as a problem, this one sees it as an asset. Sigfúsdóttir’s script makes you focus on yourself, your sexuality and your engagement with the world. It’s like a mindfulness exercise crossed with a dressing-up-box game, one that turns you into protagonist, antagonist and observer. It is theatre as me time.

Anyone living with you must duck out of the way as you buzz from room to room, going at your own pace through a series of tasks which, because of the context, become elevated from the everyday to the archetypal. I went from computer-weary to radiant. At the end, I felt taller.


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