Losing you (twice) – Mourning as theatre. (Theatre review)

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Losing you (Twice) 

King Street Theatre, Newtown Sydney Feb 7-17

The Butterfly Club, Flinders Lane, Melbourne Feb 21-26

You can grab your tickets here.

Just as everyone dies, so all those who have not yet died, are immortal. According to Derrida, every close human interaction, particularly love affairs, friendship or family relationships, contains the sadness of the inevitability that death will separate one person from another. It can be argued the one who ends this contract, this sublimated wait for the death of the other, stops experiencing the deaths of the other. Finally the work of carrying out inherent mourning stops, even as the mourning starts for the others, the family especially. For those left behind, an end has occurred and a narrative can start to be written, with each event touched and defined by the end result. For Derrida, this can contain a form of narcissism, a kind of cultural cannibalism where by the living feed off the dead. The answer to this is to address the “other-within-the-self” rather than “the other” directly. This manifests as a kind of rhetorical stance of the survivor bearing witness and acknowledging the impossibility of ever again addressing herself to the now-dead friend.

Instead of speaking for or to the internalised other Kate O’Keeffe, in her one woman show, Losing You (Twice), prefers to repeat a previous act of engagement between herself and her now deceased brother Daniel O’Keeffe. This results in a public performance that is part storytelling, part aching for her lost brother and part awareness raising for those suffering with depression or other forms of mental illness. Kate stands in front of a large screen that depicts home movies which strangely predict the show we watch. Most telling of all is the opening scene where Kate as a child performs for the family at her brother Daniel’s birthday party. As we watch, and come to the realisation her brother ran from home and became a missing person, we start to see Kate the performer in a different light.

We watch, knowing there is a story that engulfs Kate and her brother. The future has informed the past, and in a way, the memory of the experience has been lost to alternate interpretations. In psychoanalysis, the manner in which a person takes their own life is important, and that significance applies in Kate and Daniel’s story, although the audience is taken along the journey to a slow reveal as this is brought to the fore. Kate loses her brother not once, not twice as the narrative indicates, but over and over on repeat in a show she enacts designed to both talk to the spectre of her brother and attempt to make sense of a story that has no solutions. This places the audience in the position of mourner or witness to the mourning of the performer as they consider the loss of another performer on the stage (or at least in the film) who both comes to life and dies for us in the body of the show. Daniel is brought to life and mourned as absent anew with each show.

Therefore within Losing You (Twice), lies the question of why perform Losing You twice. It is here that the idea of drawing attention to causes such as MPAN (The Missing Persons Advocacy Network set up by Kate’s sister) come to the fore and we see that Kate wants to help others in the situation she experienced with her family. But more than that, it seems as an audience member, Kate doesn’t want to stop telling her story and Daniels story, because that final step will confirm the absence of her brother and close a chapter on a story that has already been drawn out. Kate can recreate remarkably personal moments on the stage, reliving the disappearance of her brother and the moment she became aware of his death. Surely the only thing worse than having to confront this night after night is the terrifying prospect of never needing to confront it again.

This show is a tragically sad affair. It’s a story Kate O’Keefe has been telling for a few years now, and one that has resulted in good work being done to help and potentially save the lives of those living with depression. This particular manifestation of the show that was shown at The King Street Theatre in Newtown is directed by Paul Gilchrist, who also acts as dramaturg, working with Kate to create a nuanced production that incorporates video and song well. James Brown creates the sound design, Liam O’Keefe does lighting and Bogdan Constantinescu and David Horne have edited the video. The family video’s make up a large part of the show, and fortunately they are well edited. They act as a kind of time machine, bringing the audience close to Daniel and to Kate as a child.

At the time of publishing this review, Losing You (Twice) has stopped playing at the King Street Theatre, and is now showing at the Butterfly Club in Melbourne.

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