Riverside Studios, Hammersmith (studio)
31 January 2024 (released)
31 January 2024
Dazzling is a one person foray into the life of a Gen Z as they try (and fail) to navigate the trials and tribulations of young adulthood; relationships, addiction, mental health and creative identity. Whilst it fails to say much new about any of the ambitious collection of themes it explores, it captures the spirit of the age well, and manages to land some giggles on the way.
We meet Alix (Alix Addinall) in their messy bedroom. Strewn with rubbish, empty bottles of wine, and general chaos; it wouldn’t be out of place in a Tracey Emmin exhibition. The wall behind them is manically scribbled with graffiti, ranging from lust filled poems to confessions of debilitating anxiety, they foreshadow the tone of the evening.
Alix’s life is filled with predictable plights of their age, a boring summer job with even more boring manager Rubin, an all encompassing friendship with Jan, and a hedonistic thirst to get more out of their youth. The story really begins when the latter lands them at a house party where they meet sparkle-eyed Fi.
The tumultuous relationship that follows is familiar but still manages to capture attention the whole way throughout. A commendable feat considering the one person cast. We go from manic happiness to a substance fuelled catastrophic downfall, which peaks in a palpably convincing panic attack from Alix.
Characters are brought to life with conviction throughout, accents and mannerisms making each feature of Alix’s world tangible and relatable for the audience. These caricatures do add a comic element to the otherwise sad tale, but some jokes land better than others, and the near misses add an awkward tension to the performance.
The sheer volume of themes that arise throughout also hinders the overall takeaways of the piece. With so many meaty topics to explore, from alcoholism to mental health breakdown, we leave feeling like we have only scratched the surface of the main drivers of our protagonist's spiral.
Alix’s friendship with Jan is the most successful element of the play. The tendency to push people away when we need them most is unfortunately an instantly recognisable symptom of bad mental health. Adinall manages to channel Jans despair at Alix’s episode brilliantly, and at times we feel as sad for him as we do Alix. It is a lesson in the importance of staying by someone’s side even when they are screaming to be left alone.
All in all, it’s an impressive, if not remarkable one person portrayal of a breakdown, inflected with the likable charm of the next generation, slang, sass and all. Catch it during the Bitesize festival at Riverside studios until February 4th.