“Who’s version of me is it? Is it even me?” asks Phina Oruche early on in her one-woman show, Identity Crisis, now playing at Ovalhouse. That one line neatly sums up the theme of the show, a group of characters all struggling to come to terms with their own identity.
The stage is laid out like a photoshoot, a white backdrop, light umbrellas and various props dotted around the floor. On to the cloth is projected a collection of headlines and later photographs which help tell the story.
That story begins with the real life tragedy of the death of Phina’s niece; at just nineteen years old she died suddenly of a brain aneurysm at Phina’s home while babysitting. It’s clear that it was a traumatic time and it allows the next seventy minutes to be a cathartic experience.
We are taken on a journey of Phina’s early years in Liverpool, where she was desperate to escape the crippling post Hillsborough poverty, and make the big time. She finds success as a model, and talks about the glamour and exhausting nature of the work. On to her career as an actress, her time in America and back in the U.K. with a few name-drops along the way.
Phina portrays nine different characters throughout her monologue, some it appears were real influences in her life; for others the origin is less clear. But they are all roles that Phina feels she is unlikely to be given the opportunity to portray at any other time. Not quite a crisis, but there is sometimes a lack of differentiation between these characters and you’re left wondering which identity you’re watching.
The stories are a bit jumbled but they are interesting, even if it does feel as though some are only there for a grievance or two to be aired.
What can’t be denied is Phina Oruche is laying her self bare and exposing some inner demons. It’s done very casually and the small space allows it to be very conversational. There’s a definite bonding experience between performer and audience and you leave feeling like you’ve been accepted in to a little ring of confidence.