Kathryn Joseph: From When I Wake
🌟🌟🌟🌟 (Four Star)
For three nights at Summerhill, Kathryn Joseph entices audiences with theatricality and poise, hygienically arranged and paired with her hard stares around the intimate room as she speaks into the souls of her observers.
The set alone, designed by James Johnson, with its multiple mirrors, small and big, with an upright piano fashioned in the foreground, is enough to induce the feeling of being in a musical hall of mirrors. Then enters Joseph, draped in some eighteenth century attire, in silence, staring at the audience. She absorbs the anxieties within the room amid the applause, and puts them to work through her set. Her opening track, ‘IIII’, fills the room with haunting. The opening words are spoken in a cracked whisper: ‘From when I wake the want is/And you survived/Tell my lover and it will lick you clean/There’s no god but you, safe/We’ve been loved by our mothers/Mouths full of blood, mountain, weight’. The mood is set. We, the spectators, are to be absorbed in her melodic lifeworld.
At first, it is easy to embrace Joseph’s unique vocals, many times over compared to Joanne Newsome’s. However, I eventually began to feel welcomed, yet uneasy by it. The vulnerability in her voice, its crackled pyrotechnics, like a firework display, immersed me into the pure spectacle of the performance, with its primal acrobatics. Indeed, I saw favour in her vocal ability to meander between the grooves of her phantom show. Most evident is this ability in ‘Safe’, where her Scottish accent takes centre stage. With crisp enunciation coloured with controlled and meditated chaos, she declares ‘I’m almost out of mind’.
The show comes to an end with a reflection on the here-and-now, the maternal, the stable, the centred. A familial glow colours the end of the performance in her closing song ‘^^’: ‘He has my heart/She is my blood/And I am made full’. The resolution is made sure, firmly within the domestic. And yet the expressive charge in the rest of the performance: the coloured changes in the dimmed lighting, the dramaturgy of her wine sips, the soft, but rough-edged distortion of Joseph’s vocal charge place this show as something beyond. It is a matter, therefore, of mediating her roles as a mother and wife, while fully participating in deep catharsis.
While the delivery of the show may be uncomfortable for some, Joseph teaches as well as entertains us, of the innate spirituality, the spirit of the feminine, that doubtless characterises human nature. It is a quality that, perhaps in this present cultural phase, needs to be underlined and understood: the feminine within all, and our duty to embrace it.