There is a dreamlike, unfinished quality to The Corona-tion of Celia a story of obsession written by Gideon Benari. Jim (Gideon Benari) meets Celia (Pauline Superville) at a dance club/class. He is a clumsy beginner, she is more advanced. They dance together twice, and he becomes infatuated. She is all he wants to think about as he anticipates their next encounter, except Coronavirus gets in the way.
Pauline Superville brings a wonderful spark to her performance as Celia, both the real world version and the different variations that Jim engages with. There is a knowing humour and confidence to her Celia, as even in the fantasy encounters Jim concocts, there is a realisation that she is ultimately in control. He can fabricate different potential encounters all he likes but the real Celia’s reactions are hers to have.
Another positive is the use of physical theatre within the piece which is interesting and held my attention.
However Benari’s Jim is strangely more intangible than the mostly imaginary Celia. Instead of providing us with an anchor for the piece, I was left with very little sense of who he was outside of his obsession. As a result I didn’t care whether Celia returned his affections or not. He may think he is in love, but why should I believe him? I was curious to see how it would play out, but not emotionally invested in the outcome. With so much of the action of the piece taking place inside of Jim’s head, the lack of connection with him left me feeling untethered, and the ending, when it comes, feels rather abrupt.
An interesting experiment in bringing a man’s fantasy world to life on stage, The Corona-tion of Celia runs at the Etcetera Theatre until 27th August 2021, with performances at 1.30pm