‘All of Me’ review
Time Out says
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Caroline Horton’s phenomenal show about depression comes to The Yard after a hit run at the Edinburgh Fringe
This review is from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, August 2019.
It’s astonishing, watching this overwhelming, at times almost unbearable one-woman show to think that Caroline Horton is the same artist who first made a splash at the Fringe nine years ago with ‘You’re Not Like the Other Girls, Chrissie’, a winsome but ultimately fairly lightweight monologue about her French grandmother.
A lot has happened since then: there was ‘Mess’, the brilliant follow-up to ‘Chrissie’, which addressed Horton’s anorexia in poignant but quirky fashion; there was ‘Islands’, a weird agitprop play about offshore banking; and there was ‘Muckers’, a kids’ show.
None of this prepares you for ‘All of Me’, in which Horton abandons all of the cute stuff in favour of a harrowing attempt to articulate her own crippling depression and suicidal thoughts: ‘the frequent sensation of not wanting to be alive’, as she puts it during an acerbic intro, in which she sardonically apologises to us about how bleak the show is going to be.
And it is. What is perhaps most potent about ‘All of Me’ is how it assaults the senses. Horton doesn’t always talk plainly about her depression. But the show is visceral as much as it is intellectual. Using a sampler and loop pedal, she again and again conjures unsettling soundscapes – sometimes nothing more than a lonely bird cry at long intervals, sometimes a roaring pyre of sound – that fill every corner of the stage, which is otherwise strewn with obsolete clutter that Horton tells us is from a previous, more cheerful draft of the show.
Over these cold, weird sonic backdrops, Horton expresses herself variously: in one section she sings her own life story in a sad minor key; most frequently she returns to an oblique allegorical story about a princess battling through a strange labyrinth to search out her monstrous sister. Little of what she says or does actually serves to articulate what it is to be depressed in clinical, literal turns. But the cumulative impact is horrifyingly evocative, like being trapped in some lightless underground world with the sense there might never be a way out.
Of course it’s artifice: it feels like we’re watching a desperate woman at the very end of her ability to function, but clearly Horton would be unable to perform if things were that bad right now. It’s a performance, presumably rooted in truth, very artfully directed by Alex Swift. It’s not a live breakdown. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to watch ‘All of Me’ without feeling in awe of the fact its creator has forced herself to make such a thing – and worried for her too.