Sing, River @ Pleasance Courtyard

Nathaniel Jones' queer solo show juxtaposes reality and fantasy in tackling the fractured narratives that come with trauma

Review by Len Lukowski | 14 Aug 2023
  • Sing, River

On the bed of the river Thames, on a midsummer's night, refuge and guidance are sought by a troubled queer person. The character, whose name and gender are never explicitly stated, is portrayed in this solo play by Nathaniel Jones. Jones first appears angelically lit, singing a wistful folk song, an ode to nature and pagan gods. What follows is an hour's juxtaposition of reality and fantasy. The latter is to be found both in the fantastical elements of the play and the fictions the protagonist makes of their own history. 

The protagonist attempts to commune with the river's deities through songs and offerings whilst telling stories of their own life as a young queer in London. This autobiographical storytelling first takes the form of fond recollections of the 'golden age' of a relationship. However, the more the protagonist searches the riverbed for answers and objects associated with their memories, the more is revealed about the buried trauma in this so-called golden age.

Jones is excellent as a character steeped in anxiety and cognitive dissonance. The character's nervousness is palpable, eyes darting in all directions as they try to forget the darker elements of their past. The association of the riverbed with the murky recesses of the mind is an extremely effective conceit. The interplay of light and shadow is both eerie and strangely comforting. The set gradually lightens throughout the hour as the protagonist is forced to face dawn and the memories they have been trying to run from. The lighting, soothing sounds of water and wistful folk score composed by Faye James and Jake Landau enable the audience to become fully immersed in the play's world.

Sing, River is a tender and original look at the fractured narrative of trauma that ultimately ends with a spark of light.

Sing, River, Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker One), until 27 Aug, 11.45am, £10-11.50