Review: BATMAN (aka Naomi’s Death Show) at The Pleasance Theatre

Monday 21st November 2022

*Work in progress

Reviewer: Emma Dorfman

Naomi Westerman’s BATMAN is still a work-in-progress, and its work is still showing. When I arrived on a blistering cold Monday night, there were 4 other gracious, but eager, audience members in the house. You couldn’t help but have this inform the tone for the rest of the performance.

We start off with a concession to the audience: the performance won’t proceed exactly as it was originally intended, with the audience choosing the order of the scenes. Rather, this decision will be left up to the “wheel of fortune,” a projected, spin-the-wheel just above Naomi’s head that appears in between scenes. This created a series of awkward silences that were full of dead air, and I wondered why the audience couldn’t participate in this sequencing. The work of the Neo-Futurists, a performance company based in Chicago and New York, offers a great model for this, and it could just as easily be incorporated here with a little more rehearsal.

And this brings me to the more undercooked moments of this one-woman show, in which Westerman honours the memory of her mother. Although the production was an autobiographical one, I got the sense that Westerman was struggling through “what happens next” quite a bit. It was unclear whether this was because of nervousness or lack of rehearsal, but it nevertheless gave the appearance of a half-baked, scattered collection of anecdotes. As much as I wanted to engage with the material—with topics that were clearly of deep personal value to Westerman—I was just too distracted by these bits.

Within this work-in-progress, there is most definitely a story Westerman wants to tell, but right now, her position is not entirely clear. She shares memories of her mother, letters written by her, stories from her own youth, her own life as a writer and artist. But to what effect?

If Westerman wishes to have a communal experience with the audience—one in which we open ourselves up to questions of mortality and the afterlife—then she must first clarify her own perspective. Only then can we have any opinion on the matter. Until then, it’s mostly talk therapy for Westerman. It seems she simply wants us to hear her story and listen to it, but what does she want us to say in response?

BATMAN (aka Naomi’s Death Show) is at The Pleasance Theatre until November 25th 2022 – you can find tickets here.

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