Cally is a bear. You can tell because she comes on stage in a head-to-toe bear suit and dances enthusiastically to Katy B. When she takes off the bear head and pops it over a red light, which glows unnervingly through the eyeholes, she stays in the suit. She is, uncompromisingly, a bear. But it wasn’t always like this.
This is the set-up for Eleanor Tindall’s gorgeous, hilarious, thrillingly weird one-woman play (Jacoba Williams, glowing and charismatic). Cally tells the story of her adolescence and young adulthood, flagging up important characters like any considerate raconteur: Jonathan Bolt, a heartthrob actor playing a TV detective that teenage Cally crushes on hard; Leah, a school friend; Carla, another school friend with whom Cally has complex emotional and sexual ties.
Tindall’s play has the energy of a stand-up comedy set and the brutal power of a confession. Though Cally’s descriptions of puberty, desire, flat-sharing and female friendships are all incredibly funny, immense pain and love thrum through every anecdote. But when Cally meets the famous Bolt in a pub and succumbs to his charms, things take a darker, harder turn.
Spliced into Aneesha Srinivasan’s production are a number of strange sequences in which Cally is entirely bear, struggling under murky soundscapes and chiaroscuro lighting: wordless, fumbling and violent.
It is abundantly obvious that the bear is a metaphor – for depression, for loneliness – but the boldness of it, the sheer crazy Kafkaesque fact that Tindall presents it as this massive, clumsy metamorphosis, adds an exhilarating sense of surrealism. This is addictive watching.