One Woman (Unlimited)

Utilising binaural sound, One Woman brings the elements to the viewer and listener. It was commissioned by Made at HOME, and streamed in the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre. It uses fragments, scenes and sounds to evoke memories, references and more to achieve a position of strength.

The performance is by Cheryl Martin, a disabled, lesbian, black artist, and touches on subjects we would rather not address: abuse, depression, personality disorders.

When we first see her figure, it is in the distance and not clear, her voice is sometimes distorted. This is the stuff of dreams: of the visions, hallucinations and past memories which come to us when we are half-awake.

Screencap from One Woman

Oddly moving and certainly powerful, One Women is at once deeply personal and arrestingly universal. This is a story of childhood trauma, to interpret and understandd from your own perspective.

As a piece of filmed theatre, it shows great beauty and strength; but also recognises through its use of sound and music, pauses and energy, that it is OK to not be OK.

As a viewer who has had depressive episodes myself, I could identify with some of the feelings the piece explored. Although Martin’s story and experience is not mine, I did explore my own memory bank where subjects best forgotten may lie.

“You’re not the worst thing that’s happened to you. Not when you can transform into something beautiful.” What Martin tells us is dance, get out of the cycle of pain, and “get some perspective”.

Screencap from One Woman

As the sound filters through headphones, as an individual barrier, it (as the event website states) “allows the audience to interact with the material on their own terms”.

We expect some visuals: clouds, storms, birds. Others are more abstract: boats by a city skyline. Martin works closely with director Juliet Ellis to bring her vision to the screen. The calm and the cacophony of her thoughts. She holds our gaze, but can we hold hers?

One Woman was available during the Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival for free until 16 January. Sean Clarke provides the visuals, Guillaume Dujat the sound. For more about the project, go here. For more on Cheryl Martin, visit her Twitter.