Review: Destiny

An unapologetic account of one young woman’s teenage experience on a Wiltshire council estate; Florence Espeut-Nickless’ new show is destined for success.

Review: Destiny

Florence Espeut-Nickless must be knackered. She’s just taken us on a trauma-ridden roller coaster; the 65-minute, no break monologue that is Destiny. There were drinks downed, dancing and desperate pleas. Sirens, J-Lo, and tears. And it’s only the first night.

To embody a character with such fast-paced straight-to-face chat, without losing a moment of high energy throughout should be rightfully applauded. The direction is thoughtful, and Espeut-Nickless traverses the stage with concise and deliberate movements, punctuated by outward audience eye-contact and moments of panicked reflection. As a Wiltshire girl myself, Destiny’s question-inflection accent, Westie dialect nuance and mention of the X31 bus route had me settled in instantly. Hearing ‘bore off’ for the first time in about 15 years made me laugh out loud.

Destiny’s story is one of perennial let downs by a system that should be doing better. The character is inherently likeable; an ambitious, kind, and talented young person. Through neglect, abuse, and missed interventions Destiny is forced into corners from where incorrect socio-economic stereotypes are born. The list of discriminations experienced by Destiny mount and mount, against her gender, her age, her family.

Espeut-Nickless’ portrayal of naivety and mis-placed love is heartbreaking. She has created in Destiny a vessel to show the paradox between desperate hope and grounded cruel reality. We are party to this through Destiny’s wide smile set against tear-filled eyes. I found the commitment to physical representations of triggered anxiety moving. I can imagine the psychosomatic shakes and breathlessness distressing to summon, and requiring expertise to control.

The Rotunda Theatre: Bubble is a true fringe theatre set-up. A venue plonked in the middle of Regency Square with no frills, just a darkened space for a stage and raked bench seating. The staging of Destiny mirrors this simplicity; empty excluding a single chair, drawing the focus to the dialogue. The darkness of the space highlights the shows considered lighting, particularly an outline of strip lighting on the floor which provides an interesting texture at points of drama.

Musical interludes are equally well thought out, with a particularly unsettling and symbolic pre-2000’s blast of I believe I can fly. To my mind the joy of a one-person show is the allowance of the audience’s imagination to conjure the rest of the scene, something Espeut-Nickless’ storytelling ability well and truly grants. To this end, occasional pre-recorded sound effects felt unnecessary, and were a little clunky and distracting.

For this tour the show is partnered with Tender UK, a charity working to prevent domestic and sexual abuse through the arts. With a focus on such critical themes, beautiful writing, and an endearing eponymous protagonist, it’s easy to see how the show has already been selected and shortlisted for awards. The text is also published and on-sale. In my opinion it would sit comfortably in the curriculum text canon.

Espeut-Nickless tells us herself at the show’s close, ‘it’s a lot’. And it is. I left feeling slightly overwhelmed and certainly affected by what I’ve seen. Destiny tells us about karma (both the nightclub and the concept), and the show certainly makes the audience question why bad things happen to good people. However, for a brutal depiction of one young woman’s struggle through adversity, the show cleverly retains enough warmth and humour to lighten the load, ultimately through Destiny’s self-proclaimed ‘comedy genius’ and an unfailing strength of hope.

Header Image Credit: Brighton Fringe

Author

Kerry Williams

Kerry Williams Local Reporter

Sussex-based writer and conservationist.

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