Written by Sam Moore, this monologue is a spirited, sharp (and brief!) identity manifesto from Blue Bar Productions. As Nemo, Luis Donegan-Brown blazes onstage for the 45-minute length with unflagging, skilfully modulated energy.

Donegan-Brown sustains a playful and vibrant interaction with the audience throughout the show. His performance as Nemo embraces humour, heartbreak, confusion, and defiance as he drives through the mire of the coming out process. As the world shifts and adjusts to new possibilities in sexual identity, parameters push wider. Coming out stories don’t necessarily fit the patterns that the gay population has embedded within their consciousness from across the decades. Stereotypes are torn apart. Labels relax. Awareness invites more scrutiny, well-intentioned or not. Nemo adopts a revolutionary strategy in his struggles against the insistence of people to categorise himself (“What are you?,” they demand) by refusing to offer easy explanation. Against the limitations of even the mighty, long-accepted power mantra of “I am what I am,” Nemo rises to the new level of “I am what I am becoming,” an individual in perpetual progress. 

From early fumblings with girls through to the crude beginnings of the internet, Nemo has experienced all available connection. Early cyberspace offered a safe realm of textual fantasy where all manner of desire was indulged. The expectation was not so much to meet up realistically but to plug in to a sudden giddy surfeit of global community. The advent of dating apps and online porn bring new dimension, immediacy, and trepidation to sexual pursuits. There is a great comic moment when Nemo explains his utter bemusement in trying to negotiate porn websites, not ever quite resolving from which perspective he should be enjoying it. Inevitably, Nemo transitions to less abstract experiences. His recounting of an early pivotal relationship with a footballer takes the audience on a thrilling, perilous journey from the heights of ecstasy to the devastating blast of breakdown. Donegan-Brown communicates exquisitely the pain that lingers from never quite being able to comprehend just what went wrong. It brought a cruelly abrupt, shattering end that will define and set standards.

Nemo’s confessional is occasioned by his “outing” of a friend’s brother on a social app which leads to all sorts of self-justification and soul-searching. This brother is about to be married although he is offering himself online. Initially, Donegan-Brown is at manic pitch as he navigates this triggering event, showing his character is not quite comfortable with what he has done. The onus of explanation bears heavily on Nemo, inflicted by self and society. Whereas his straight brethren are able to grow into their sexuality with an ease of account, Nemo feels pressured to always clarify. Unexpectedly, it is his brother’s friend who is the ultimate agent of epiphany. At his wedding, asked point-blank how he can be such a contradiction, the man says he is honest and comfortable in the schism and can be all things at once. This shocks Nemo into the new realm of prospect, all restraint discarded. He has found himself. And the audience has found an intriguing, sympathetic, messy, flawed protagonist to embrace.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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