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The Big Smoke

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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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.

- Miranda Fay Thomas


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