Amy Trigg is a star. That’s one of many take-homes from this beautiful, hilarious, energetic show that warmed and wrenched my heart in equal measures. After a sellout run at the Kiln in 2021, Reasons You Should(n’t) Love Me is back on home turf for a month after finishing a national tour. And boy does it slap.

Bursting out of a cargo shipping container with ‘Capri Sun’ written on the side (‘cause why not?), Trigg commands the stage as Juno, a woman who wears her heart and her split spine — the literal translation of Spina Bifida as she enthusiastically informs us — on her sleeve, and draws us into her world with a series of anecdotes about a childhood defined by body-modification ops, the quirks of the friends who shaped her, and the trials of learning to love in a body that doesn’t always seem to love her back. One thing that intrigues me is the extent to which Juno is a guise for Trigg herself, such is the casual honesty and vividness of the scenes she lays out — it feels so very real and brims with the hard-won wisdom of a life truly lived.

Many one-person shows tread a fine line between keeping the audience warm with a likable, witty character who ends up in a series of awkward scrapes. Here, it’s bamboozling a gaggle of Christians who think they can make her walk by praying for her, confronting a misguided Tinder date who thinks he can make her walk by f***ing her, and ultimately wetting herself in the arms of a crush. But not only does Trigg pull all these this off with a brilliantly vibrant and perfectly-timed performance — the dramatic potential of rocking back on her wheelchair deployed to expert effect — she manages the switch into the raw nerve of her character with a subtlety and reserve that builds it to a truly powerful degree.

Complemented by the cleverly varied states of Guy Hoare’s lighting design and the eerie, distant echoes of Elena Peña’s detailed sound effects, there always seems to be something more going on beneath the surface of Juno’s resilient smile and unflappable spirit, and occasional flashes of a broken light bulb undercut the smoothness of the narrative as she wants it to be shown. Emotions come and go with the fluidity of someone fully immersed in the joy and pain of life — a quality of Trigg’s performance perfectly summed up by her comparing her smile to that of a clown who’s just been fired from the circus: devastated beneath but only able to respond with laughter.

It’s in the quieter moments of the play’s latter half — in its rich and poignant silences and softened revelations of Juno’s ‘stand-by’ days — that the struggle of living with chronic and disabling health conditions truly emerges. In one scene between Trigg and her able-bodied, aspirational friend Mel, Trigg switches deftly between the pained sympathy of Juno taking her friend’s barbed comments so patiently, and Mel’s truly bitter breakdown. There’s a profound hollowness to the feelings shown here — they feel so true. But for all that Juno has to bear, the sympathy she shows her friend gives the two women space to let their masks down and simply be. It’s heartbreaking to see her give even when she is going through so much.

This is a story about how to find the words to make life bearable. Juno reveals to us the danger of words yet also their power, how negative feelings about oneself can wreak destruction on a life that others see as so beautiful, and how if we could only see ourselves through the mirror of the ones we love, we would realise how important it is to love ourselves too. Hearing Juno describe an imagined version of herself without Spina Bifida as ‘unrecognisable,’ I’m reminded that what’s important isn’t life’s achievements and wins — the happy Instagram moments that aspire towards some idea of perfection. It’s about the everyday ups and downs — the joy and laughter but also the tears and sadness — and how these are what make this or any human story real, relatable, and capable of changing the world. It’s a beautiful thing to see the sad poetry of Juno’s (Trigg’s?) past finally finding home in a production that convinces, without a shadow of a doubt, that we should love not just this character, but also ourselves. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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