Review: SOLO Contemporary Peformance

Watched at The Trinity Centre on the 20th of March – Originally posted on Bristol 24/7 

Back in October, the Falmouth/Bristol-based Solo Contemporary Performance Forum (SCPF) organised a residency workshop for performers. Held over two nights at Trinity, this Solo Forum is the direct result. The organisation offers artistic support to solo theatre makers in the south-west – and helps local artists turn the kindling of ideas into the flames of a work in progress.

Friday’s opener was Bella Fortune’s Bubbletiquette, which picked apart social etiquette and fidgeting. Switching between Emily Post-style lessons on the art of etiquette, delivered in a wry and puritanical fashion, Bella offered up a confessional exploration into why we stop our bodies doing what they naturally want to do – fidget like crazy.

The audience were encouraged to partake in this, popping bubble wrap throughout and providing an appropriate soundtrack. Bella then animatedly demonstrated the joys of fidgeting by pulling apart her jumper with childlike glee and shaking her fists in a Wallace and Gromit style at the idea of delicious cheese.

Bubbletiquette explores social conventions around stillness and the art of not giving too much away, but the meat of the matter lies in the personal story behind it. Bella summons up potent imagery with warm tales of her family life, creating vignettes of shambolic mealtimes and sisters who just can’t sit still, and Bubbletiquette shows how fidgeting is an unspoken language that only those closest to you can hope to understand.


Bella understands what her father’s nervous tic means, as well as her sister’s constant knee jerking – and over and over she repeats the phrase ‘time + love + experience’, the three signifiers you need to be able to read the fidgets of those who can no longer speak. The show builds towards a heart-wrenching finale, a single defining memory of a lone fidget, which conveys this idea of this unspoken language in a brave and poignant way.

While this performance had a defined narrative and emotional arc, Alice Human’s Tea With Your Ancestors (pictured top) was a far more surrealist affair: a kaleidoscope of songs, dream sequences, teacups and tablecloths, in which Alice attempts to find her place within a family tree.

She invites the audience to be part of this ritualistic ceremony, a child’s tea party designed to summon our ancestors – but the trappings of adulthood mean that she’s unable to fully convince herself of the task at hand. The tea is spat out because of its tepidness and lack of sugar. She explores the idea of childhood naivety using a delightfully ramshackle variety of props and instruments, and we eventually see the loss of innocence, as she switches between her child and adult selves.

One moment she’s a honey-voiced folk singer performing a serene ballad about matriarchal relatives: the next, she’s an inpatient child hidden under a tablecloth longing to be caught.

These shows, though completely different in their execution and approach, shared a passion to explore, communicate and enthral an audience. Both show the excellent mentoring that SCPF is doing for local theatre makers.

SOLO Contemporary Performance Forum was at Trinity, Bristol, on Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20. For more info, visit

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