That Is Not Who I Am review – all is not what it seems in tricksy thriller about truth and power

Royal Court, London
One play reveals another in a tangled web that pits the Home Office against two Guardian blind-daters

Lift up the cover of the playtext for That Is Not Who I Am by Dave Davidson and another play will fall out. Long before the audience have stepped into the Royal Court, this play has us questioning the truth. The real play, that is. That Is Not Who I Am is a clever front for Rapture, a brilliantly tricksy new production by Lucy Kirkwood.

In an opening statement, we are told that Rapture is a response to a real-life investigation of a murdered couple, after the home secretary refused to release the report on their deaths. After legal challenges and threats, Kirkwood decided to publish the play under a pseudonym for her own safety. Directed slickly by Lucy Morrison, an immediate sense of discomfort is sewn into this remarkably layered, brain-boggling story, in which reality and sanity are under constant scrutiny.

Priyanga Burford, Siena Kelly and Jake Davies.
Stellar performances … Priyanga Burford, Siena Kelly and Jake Davies. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

Celeste (Siena Kelly) and Noah (Jake Davies) meet on a Guardian blind date, rating each other 9 and 9.5. As they create a life together, his resistance to technology rubs off on her, and among the fragile scenes of their relationship, we see them grow increasingly paranoid of surveillance and data collection. A relentless urgency builds as they become entangled in anti-democracy movements and the hoarding of government secrets, making themselves into dangerous targets.

They are right to think they are being watched, and not just by us and their Netflix subscription. Leaning casually against Naomi Dawson’s rotating, scaffold-home set is Kirkwood. Played with a nervous excitement by Priyanga Burford, she explains how she used Reddit threads, YouTube videos and home recordings to piece the Quilter’s story together – the technology the couple hated forming her archive. Conspiracy theories come to the fore, and the question of what is real suddenly seems very difficult to answer.

Rapture is about truth and power, with a visceral frustration at our cruel and incompetent government being just one of the many intricate layers of this mystery. But in text and direction, this play also delights in the way theatre is made, with visible stage managers constructing the version of reality Kirkwood wants us to believe. A heady production with stellar performances, Rapture is a thriller, a trickster, and an absolute romp.

• At the Royal Court, London, until 16 July.


Kate Wyver

The GuardianTramp

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