Scandinavia has been Good to Me, Bluecoat Theatre – Review

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The world is a mess, the nation is a state, and a good friend has disappeared. The only clues to where he has gone and whether he will return is a box of memories of past wanderings and a note: ‘Scandinavia has been good to me.’

Enter Mandy Romero, trans detective extraordinaire, to make sense of it all. Is there a better place?  Is it anywhere you can get to by walking? What’s rave got to do with it? Or Japanese poetry for that matter?

We begin with a screen projection – confusing sounds, flashing images – and narration, but I fixate on a lonely microphone stand and a small pedestal positioned stage left, all under a dim spotlight.

Then, from the rear of the sloped seating at the Bluecoat Theatre in Liverpool, a somewhat withered figure saunters through the dark and into the spotlight. Dressed in a festive dress – slashes of metallic green, red and blue – a pale-skinned character carries a box. Clutched with both hands as it is, it is clear how important the box is.

Mandy places the box down onto the pedestal and stations herself in front of the microphone. Instantly I am captivated by her loneliness. Despite sharing the space with at least 50 audience members, I too quickly feel isolated.

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Without hesitation, Mandy tells us of her return to an apartment where ‘he’ resides. However, on this visit, it is empty. Images flash on screen for us to see the emptiness of a cold and quite grim-looking flat.

I see the look on her face and feel her sense of abandonment. In the apartment, a box is found, the box she carried in at the start. With it is the note from which the show takes its name.

Mandy opens the box. Inside, it contains an array of magazines, newspaper clippings, postcards and memories of time spent with this illusive gentleman. As she sieves through, we experience the history of a relationship between Mandy and a man she continues to address as ‘he’.

For the most part, the entire piece is told through monologues, but throughout, we are treated to screen projections of news reports, changing times, and a funeral of a Liverpool man. Is this the death of ‘he’? However, as the funeral information continues, the man in question is revealed to be someone else – a well-known character, loved by many in Liverpool.

Many of the visuals are a little too diverting. Happy to listen to Mandy talk, it’s when the projections end and Mandy continues that the show regains focus.

One projection grabs me: the backdrop of a Scandinavian city at night. Beautiful waters with a stunning skyline set the scene for the voices of a male and female character in conversation. Sounds of a nightclub echo in the background as the conversation covers the evening’s events.

At one point, the woman asks if the man has ‘copped off’; the man is drunk and stumbles his words. As I listen to the conversation, I begin to question who this man is and is this the man who left the box? Or is he a fictitious character? Is he dead? As the piece continues, my inner detective tells me ‘he’ is actually ‘her’.

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As the performance draws to a close, the answer to where ‘he’ is doesn’t conclude, but, treated to a solo dance performance by Mandy and choreographed by Darren Suarez, the solo features vogue poses and typical 90s club moves that assist in forming my own conclusion of where ‘he’ has gone.

Mandy’s entire performance is full of intrigue. It’s a shrewd way to let go of one’s original self. My interpretation of the piece of course is open to criticism. The audience could possibly identify the story as a true relationship ending, or they may observe a fictitious relationship created by Mandy to heal the loneliness felt through a time when being different was forbidden.

This is the story of a person sat on the outside of society, watching the world change its acceptance of diversity, and as that world sheds its offence and fear, Mandy, through the emptying of the box, and the release of power poses through her dance, leaves behind the history of ‘he’.

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