• Amy Toledano

39 Degrees presented by RedBellyBlack Theatre

What is it?

Kate Goodfellow's experience of two separate 39 degree days. One taking place in her stuffy London apartment, the other her family home in Australia.

What is it about?

Kate is caught between two worlds. In the first, her London studio apartment with a window that won't budge open, and in the second, her family home surrounded by the catastrophic Australian bushfires of 2019/2020.

In London, she is kept company by another, able to lament and explain the pain and anguish she feels at being so far away from home. Her best friend is unwell, she misses her family. She has been cheated on and forced to move in to this hovel of an apartment and on top of everything else she has lost her job.

The scene flick between situations, as she describes the sight of the flames surrounding her home, the way she feels it to her very core, and the anger she feels at the Australian Government for doing nothing.

As the story unfolds, through lyrical poetry and movement, so too unravels the innards of one woman's pain and anguish at not knowing what to do next.

How did it make me feel?

An incredibly moving piece of theatre, very clearly still weighing heavy on writer and performer Kate Goodfellow. The set and sound and lighting design rises the piece up and brings the intense heat and pain of these events to the audience in an incredibly powerful way.

Direction by Alistair Wilkinson is also deftly designed, with the performers moving around the space with a ghost-like demeanour, always keeping the audience either just out of arms reach, or right within the action whether we like it or not.

The chemistry between Goodfellow and performer Ruth Newbery-Payton, is raw and sisterly, however there is a slight lack of clarity in the relationship between the two which makes it difficult to identify with Newbery-Payton's role.

Goodfellow's performance is so deeply connected, that the audience is engaged from the get go, as she uses her skills as a storyteller to evoke stunning imagery of Australian beaches and New Years Eve, as well as the grimy heat of uncomfortable summers.

This piece brings up the extremities of emotion depending on a person's specific situation, for example, feeling at a completely loss with no job or money, to literally losing everything in a bushfire that cannot be controlled, which can be an incredibly difficult thing to identify on stage. However, 39 Degrees is able to evoke similar reactions in the audience for both situations, which is a credit to the company.

Anything Else?

RedBellyBlack Theatre have such a unique style of performing that does not go amiss here, with an important and dangerously angry piece of theatre that does not apologise for the spitting and violent passion that it brings to the stage. I am truly excited to see what the next development of this piece looks like.

Amy x

This show has not been starred as it is a work in progress piece.

39 Degrees is playing in the Cage, VAULT Festival, until the 15th March 2020.

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