Director Nir Paldi was terribly apologetic after I saw his production
of The Big Smoke. I’m not sure if most of his audience members
leave in floods of tears, but I was inconsolable as I left the
auditorium. Co-devised with the piece’s performer Amy Nostbakken, this
one-woman show is inspired by the lives and work of Sylvia Plath, Anne
Sexton and Virginia Woolf. It is the story of a promising yet troubled
young artist called Natalie, who comes to London from Canada for a
chance to become part of the vibrant British arts scene.
Both inspired and crippled by expectation, Natalie’s descent into
madness is expressed through Nostbakken’s exceptional voice: the
entire piece is told through the most haunting musical poetry
imaginable. The emotional range is almost unbearably mesmerizing;
singing completely a cappella, Nostbakken is exceptional at recreating
the theatricality of life and imitating the cadences of ideas and
sensations. In fact, I can’t imagine there’s any experience she can’t
evoke with her perfect voice. This performance left me transfixed,
overwhelmed and weeping. Utterly stunning.
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