Mike Tilling, Arts Correspondent

You Heard Me – Luca Rutherford

You Heard Me - 
Credit Photography by Camilla Greenwell
You Heard Me - Credit Photography by Camilla Greenwell
It has been a long time since I saw anything like You Heard Me. I am sure that writer and performer Luca Rutherford must have had radical/experimental theatre of the last century in mind when she devised this drama. The evidence is: direct confrontation with the audience/no fourth wall; apparently random action; music, lighting, costume, and props fused into a strange singularity. The nearest parallel I can think of is a ‘happening’ – remember those?

The show arose out of a highly disturbing incident that Rutherford experienced when out for a run in Hull. A would-be rapist assaulted her. She escaped, but the event had a profound affect on her life thereafter. What saved her was emitting a scream which caught the attention of a passer-by.

The programme notes signal that some audience members may find the narrative of that event disturbing and gives permission for people to leave if necessary.

The details of the attack come late in the show, but the earlier dancing and mime seem to illustrate how she came to terms with the event. There are some random passages for which I may be able to dream up a rational explanation: running up steps only to teeter at the top may be a struggle to heal the memory; throwing confetti into the air may be a reference to marriage; but what is the significance of the helium balloon floated into the flies? And why the use of helium to create that strange cartoon character voice? Why the changes of costume (except for the running gear, which makes sense)? Why the giant pink mattress that is eventually deflated?

Perhaps Rutherford is using the irrational to represent the fact that many responses to the assault are not rational and create chaos in the mind of the victim. What is clear is the deep anger at the experience and the perpetrator. The only reasonable response is the scream (shades of Edvard Munch’s painting) that she uses to regain her sense of self.

The show at Stephen Joseph Theatre is the last in a long run that included London, Birmingham and Hexham. I see the point and the power of the performance, but I wonder if other audiences were more capable of making sense of that evening in the theatre than I was.

Mike Tilling watched You Heard Me at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
Director – (and one of a number of collaborators) Maria Crocker.