I'll Show You Mine

Raphaele Moussafir, translated by David Nowell-Smith, adapted by Caroline Horton with Delyth Jones and Clare Betney
Giant Olive Theatre
Lion and Unicorn Theatre
(2011)

First written as a novel and then turned into a play, I'll Show You Mine is a follow-on from the same writer's Almost 10 (Du vent dans mes mollets), though it starts us off with the six year-old Rachel, now turned into a little English rather than French girl with appropriate references to UK television and lifestyle.

Caroline Horton's Rachel tells us her own story from six to puberty and plays all the other characters too. That is to say that Rachel plays them: mum dad, elder brother Benjamin, home-helps Melanie and Sonia who split the week between them, school friends and the people she meets when they go down to their country cottage. Though sometimes embodying vocabulary and ideas that seem more appropriate to an adult looking back, it is essentially a child's eye view with all its intolerant distortions and consequently rather cruelly caricatured impersonations. Rachel makes a great effort to imitate her father Richard, really straining her ability. While cleverly playing that, actress Horton at the same time manages to suggest the real bond that exists between Rachel and her dad.

Most of the humour comes from how scathing Rachel is in her view of others and the contrast between her juvenile innocence and her knowingness about adult things, plus an occasional deliberate and self-conscious tweeness as she sends up adult handling of things like "the special place you have to wash very carefully". Rachel's viewpoint suggests a very dysfunctional family but you can't help feeling that she is deliberately setting out to shock, especially with her fantasies of romance with King Kong, but then perhaps eleven-year old girls today have a sexual imagination way beyond that of earlier generations.

Intriguingly there is a Turkish grandfather who still runs a street market clothing stall, in contrast to his bourgeois son with two dailies who even cook for them and a country place, and a maternal grandma whom Rachel hates to visit, but the format doesn't allow any exploration of the family which is a pity. The result is a frequently funny but very shallow piece that relies very much on the performer rather than any real insight into growing up. Horton plays it well but is hampered by a production that has her physically cuing music and sound effects, presumably intended by director Delyth Jones to add another layer of theatricality but used quite arbitrarily since other lightings cues just happened. I also wonder whether one sequence played on the floor was visible to all the audience in this intimate theatre. Did anyone check the sight lines?

I'll Show You Mine is played on and around a balance beam on an otherwise empty stage. It makes a strong statement that is not tied in with the rest of the production, as Rachel tries out balances as the audience takes its seats, but I am still trying to work out its meaning. The precariousness of young life? The croppers kids encounter? The way childhood experience tips you in a particular direction? At least it makes a change from a box or a single chair and should be quite an easy thing to tour on a roof rack.

"I'll Show You Mine" plays in repertoire at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 4th September 2011

Howard Loxton