Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Chambre Noire review at Jacksons Lane, London – ‘frustratingly shallow’

Plexus Polaire's Chambre Noire at Jacksons Lane. Photo: Benoit Schupp
by -

Chambre Noire is a grim one-woman puppet show about the death of Valerie Jean Solanas, the radical feminist who famously shot Andy Warhol in 1968 after a dispute over a film script.

Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Solanas served prison time and continued to promote her SCUM manifesto – which urged the overthrow of the patriarchy, money system and elimination of the male sex – until she died of pneumonia in a San Francisco hotel room aged 52.

Solanas was a person on the margins – of mainstream society, of the feminist movement, of Warhol’s fashionable Factory clique – so there’s a certain poetic justice in placing this disenfranchised figure centre stage. But there’s not much beyond the neon-tinged spotlight and spectacle.

Creator Yngvild Aspeli manipulates a jittery life-sized Solanas puppet around her sordid hallucinatory deathbed, variously emerging from behind the mattress as a predatory tufted Warhol and Solanas’ Marilyn Monroe-obsessed mother, who turned a blind eye to her husband’s sexual abuse of the young Valerie.

While the puppet has a certain knock-kneed vulnerability and crop-haired verisimilitude, it’s hard to engage with all this imaginatively. The experience is almost prurient, the serving up of marionette mental illness and sexual debasement (Solanas, a lesbian, worked as a prostitute with male clients) as a dubious entertainment with little real exploration of the character, her philosophies, her motivations.

Musician Ane Marthe Sorlien Holen accompanies the action with pretentious electro: synths, screechy vocals and ominous percussive kerplunks. It’s a hollow tribute to a tragic life.

London International Mime Festival – showcasing visual theatre on the capital’s stages

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
A show about Warhol’s would-be assassin Valerie Jean Solanas that’s frustratingly shallow despite sophisticated puppetry