That’s Not Who I Am Review, Royal Court: This Strange Political Mystery is an important work

Internet wormholes are dangerous things. Fall into one and you face an unknown exit. You could lose days with Wikipedia’s “privacy” section. You could develop a parasocial relationship with this woman you’ve never met who is always posting pictures of her beautiful home. They could develop anti-vaccination tendencies. in the That’s not me, the latest Downstairs show at the Royal Court, a young couple who bond over their penchant for the shady corners of the internet; They fall in love with a 9/11 conspiracy theory.

Fittingly, the play itself has become an internet wormhole. Ever since it was first heralded as the debut work by obscure playwright Dave Davidson, who “has worked in the security industry for 38 years,” people on the internet have been clamoring to discover his true identity. When they found out that the culprit was in fact award-winning Lucy Kirkwood, people online reacted as if something had been taken from them personally. Because that’s mainly how people react on the internet these days. The whole thing was like a piece of permanent performance art; I suspect Kirkwood has us right where she wants us.

Kirkwood’s pseudonym and the wrong title of the play – it’s really called rapture – cleverly illuminates that this is a production about suspicion, misinformation and the construction of alternative realities on the internet. We’re told (wrongly, of course) that these were measures to protect Kirkwood’s safety: she was investigating what happened to Noah and Celeste Quilter, a young anti-establishment couple, and the Home Office was trying to censor her . Noah and Celeste meet on a blind date for a newspaper column and quickly discover they are kindred spirits who – literally – burst through the countryside as they jump into life together.

“That’s not who I am” at the royal court

(Manuel Harlan)

Noah is an ex-soldier who now spends his days trying to find a job online. He is confused about his politics and cannot find a party or movement that expresses his ideals. Celeste is a weary NHS nurse who can juxtapose the difficult reality of her job with empty statements from politicians. The scenes from their early courtship are breezy and fun, and Jake Davies and Siena Kelly are superb quilters, cheering each other on as they become increasingly preoccupied with activism. Priyanga Burford plays Kirkwood, who has enrolled as a floating presence who fills in the blanks like the narrator of a true crime podcast. Naomi Dawson’s rotating set, moved by stage managers, shows that artifice is at the heart of this story.

It’s maybe 20 minutes too long and towards the end the tone shifts towards melodrama. But other than that, this is undoubtedly a very significant piece of writing. Kirkwood enters urgent territory by exploring the ways in which rampant internet conspiracy theory has disrupted our logical thought processes. Because this is not just about the malleability of truth on the web, but about who is allowed to ask questions. The working-class quilters are being pulverized by the cost-of-living crisis, but despite their understandable distrust of government, their rejection of corporations is easily ridiculed, further isolating them. “You think I’m insane because I want to ask questions?” Noah says at one point. This is a strange political mystery that is exciting to look at but full of things that are frightening to look at.

That Is Not Who I Am can be seen at the Royal Court until July 16

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/reviews/that-is-not-who-i-am-royal-court-review-dave-davidson-b2104991.html That’s Not Who I Am Review, Royal Court: This Strange Political Mystery is an important work


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