That Is Not Who I Am review

Review: That Is Not Who I Am, Royal Court Theatre

Review: That Is Not Who I Am, Royal Court Theatre

A play that begs the question “what on Earth did I just watch?”. In the best possible way.


Royal Court Theatre is no stranger to controversy (with the phantom of the 1980’s fiasco Perdition always looming over Sloane Square, and many, many, MANY, smaller scandals since) – this time, its new marketing campaign caused a tiny social media skirmish. That Is Not Who I Am was advertised as written by the mysterious first-time playwright Dave Davidson when in reality *SPOILERS* Dave Davidson turned out to be very much not-a-first-time-playwright, Olivier winner and Fellow of Royal Society of Literature Lucy Kirkwood. Some were lured in by the mystery, most rather appalled by the alleged attempt to stage new theatre being merely a fancy cover-up for hosting yet another big name. In any case, was the play really worth such meticulous marketing efforts?  

It was – and not solely because Rapture, the play’s real title, is a brilliant thriller in its own right, but because said efforts are an inherent part of this uber-meta, very confusing, what-is-the-truth, red-pill-or-blue-pill production.  

Celeste (Siena Kelly) and Noah (Jake Davies) meet on a Guardian blind date. She is a nurse; he was a soldier. They hit it off right away: date turns into relationship, relationship into marriage, and marriage into parenthood – and obsession with (or rather, against) technology and government authority. And obsession slowly turns into madness. Or does it?  

The play never gives a definite answer. They isolate themselves from the world and eventually communicate with the outside world only via an old Nokia phone and their YouTube videos which quickly gain popularity. With almost a million subscribers confirming their biases, the couple begins to feel more like revolutionaries than freaks, thus diving even deeper into their obsessions. On-stage Lucy Kirkwood (Priyanga Burford), a somewhat comforting presence explaining her investigation into the couple’s life, has her theories of course, but the intrinsic theatricality of Rapture, with visible stage managers transporting props within Naomi Dawson’s rotating home set, never really let us forget that what we see is merely Kirkwood’s perception of reality, rather than reality itself. 

When a good many Covid-themed plays are lamenting the loss of human relations, this one embraces it and plunges headlong into all the new digitalised era entails – complete with Reddit posts, home recordings and YouTube videos. It touches on a plethora of topics both relevant and timely: but chiefly it explores how the conspiracy theories are being created and re-created and where in the rabbit hole lies the point of no return. After all, just because you seem more than slightly paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you. 

It all gets very meta by the end, exploring what Rapture means in medieval French and making a sudden twist into a cynical, nihilist, quasi-absurdist dark comedy that begs the question “what on Earth did I just watch?”. Shame about the misfiring marketing strategy – but it looks like a bigger controversy is coming towards the Royal Court with the staging of Jonathan Freedland’s new play, so we may conveniently let bygones be bygones. 

Royal Court Theatre, until 16 July

Image: Siena Kelly, Jake Davies, credit – Manuel Harlan