There is fractured, splintered quality to ‘Notch’ that is both jarring and compelling. Written and performed by Danaja Wass, she is clearly comfortable with disconnects. Her character A.A is both victim and predator. She isolates herself, while also looking for somewhere to belong. Or should that be someone to belong to?
With themes of homelessness, xenophobia, sexual assault and otherness, ‘Notch’ is a powerful, poetic performance piece that provokes surprised barks of laughter from the audience. It is both familiar and disorienting. Wass’ A.A. is a character we recognise, a familiar shape, the outline of a person we’d find in any Western European city. The accented voice asking for change, the foreigner stacking shelves in our local supermarket, A.A is both a unique individual and a representation of the otherness of immigrants who look or sound foreign.
A.A. has moved to Dublin in the hopes of creating a better life for herself, but the Western dream is a tattered one, and even she is cynical about what this great new life might have in store for her. If anything you get the sense that A.A. didn’t really belong back home, so she decided she might as well travel and try to find a new place to be. There is a strong sense of isolation and disconnection in the way she shares the fragments of her life. Even her sense of identity feels as if it has been smashed, as she deals with the present, and all that it throws at her. She is infatuated, the object of her affection elusive, someone we experience through the distance of a TV screen. She wants her, but there is a strong sense that she feels that she doesn’t deserve her.
A.A. adopts different voices, with Wass skillfully demonstrating how she manipulates her environment by dialing her accent up and down. She is a complicated and fascinating character who shuts herself up when she feels she is sharing too much. Madelaine Moore’s direction really brings out the spiky, complexity of the piece. There are no attempts to dumb down, or simplify, Wass’ creation, instead she sharpens the edges of the piece, using technology to provide a blunt backdrop of banality to A.A’s very vivid descriptions. Lucy Bishop’s movement direction lifts the piece even further, transforming it into an emotionally cohesive yet disconcerting artistic experience.
‘Notch’ is a truly exciting piece of theatre. Danaja Wass has created a flawed and fascinating character in A.A, and all of the different elements of the production work powerfully together to bring her damaged psyche to vivid life. This is a challenging, yet rewarding show that is well worth catching if you can.
‘Notch runs at the Vault Festival until Sunday 23rd February.