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Declining Solo review Jackson’s Lane Theatre, London – ‘a bittersweet performance’

Katherina Radeva in Declining Solo at Jackson's Lane Theatre, London. Photo: Alex Brenner Katherina Radeva in Declining Solo at Jackson's Lane Theatre, London. Photo: Alex Brenner

The aroma of roasting peppers fills the air as the audience arrives for Declining Solo, a bittersweet performance piece packed with evocative details. Devised and performed by Katherina Radeva and Alister Lownie, the show is a spiritual sequel to their 2014 offering, Near Gone – a meditation on memory, loss, identity and belonging. Here, though, the focus is Radeva’s early life in Bulgaria, and her relationship with her increasingly withdrawn father.

Radeva is an absorbing performer, whether rattling off a string of old Communist jokes or pausing in the midst of a euphoric dance to flash a wry smile at the audience. Lownie, meanwhile, haunts the space, reciting Radeva’s fragmentary recollections in a measured monotone while dressed in an elaborate, symbolically-charged costume, part masked Kukeri dancer, part haunted tree.

Brief dance passages, choreographed with Robbie Synge, break up this narration. Traditional Balkan steps collide with freeform modern flourishes while Tim Blazdell’s score – itself a synth-heavy fusion of contemporary and folk styles – surges intermittently in volume.

Reams of paper hang throughout the space, serving as canvasses for simple video projections and as props in their own right. Radeva neatly shreds them as the show progresses, creating windows and picture frames, twisting them into impressive architectural structures that reflect the content of the text.

Envisioned as a “messy portrait,” of a life, a family, and a country, the performance has a raw, unfinished edge. Though unpolished and occasionally meandering, the show communicates a universally recognisable sense of yearning for home.

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