Digital review: Self, No Self (National Women’s Theatre Festival)

The last show I will be reviewing this year from the National Women’s Theatre Festival in Ralegh, NC, is, to give it it’s full title, Self, No Self and The Collective: Ritual as Healing.

Auds Jenkins, Eve Woldemikael, and Nathalie Folkerts have created this “experiment in ritual play” which deals with collective healing and liberation in a relaxed space and context.

Self, No Self fuses ritual and theatre in a piece that partly uses audience participation and is partly unscripted. It also acknowledges that ritual, theatre, and performance can be lighthearted.

I found this an odd choice for a streamed performance, deliberating choosing to watch it to see how it might work. My rating below is purely from a digital viewing perspective.

Such experiments and shows can succeed when all audience members are in the same space, or across a live online platform such as Zoom (I believe this was an option, but I received an on-demand YouTube link due to the time difference).

Promotional image for Self, No Self

Here, I felt the idea was interesting but ultimately isolating for folks watching alone at home. I did like some of the ideas (many I have encountered as corporate ice-breakers) like liie making an effigy, but when you can’t see what is being shared, it feels odd.

Ultimately, Self, No Self is a bit of a curio which is to be applauded for its inclusivity (gender, race, sexuality etc) but which feels more like a workshop to reflect on or work on with a group, in the moment.

A strong sense of identification goes through one of the rituals: who we are, who we might be, but this implies everyone wishes to assign themselves a label, which feels restrictive.

Elsewhere, there is poetry, chanting, and a feeling of belonging. Sadly, this does not translate completely to sofa watching – however well-intentioned the piece might have been.

For more on the National Women’s Theatre Festival, go to their website.