Review: Our Carnal Hearts, Chapter Arts Centre – Experimentica Season

Photo: Claire Haigh

Our Carnal Hearts, Sunday 2nd April, Chapter Arts Centre, reviewer: Sam Walker

GOLD. Always believe in your soul. You got the power to know. You’re indestructible.

There was a point during Rachel Mars’ performance where I found myself part of a choir singing Spandau Ballet with a bunch of strangers and not even feeling unusual. In her exploration of envy, and the honesty with which we should treat this taboo emotion, Mars created a relaxed environment, where people explained their own cases of envy and joined in a dance to M.I.A.’s Paper Planes.

This is not to say that, as part of Experimentica 2017, Mars turned Chapter Arts Centre into a self-help centre. Rather, through an intimate use of choral singing and audience interaction, an atmosphere of honesty was created.

I was sat next to one of four chorus members, each holding song books, who provided the atmosphere for Mars’ performance. Being able to so clearly hear the subtleties in each chorus members voice made for a truly engrossing style, particularly during their roasting of a man in the audience with 600 Twitter followers – the surprisingly catchy ‘Humblebrag’ song.

With very few props, and only minimal lighting (reminiscent of a flame, a recurring theme throughout Our Carnal Hearts), the success of the show almost entirely rests on Mars’ self-performance. Luckily, her self-assured delivery, both in the more rehearsed sections and in her dealings with the audience, created a thoughtful and personal feel in the room.

Mars’ discussion of envy, and how it is something natural to feel, and something that should be owned felt very refreshing. A slightly taboo subject was blown apart and owned. While never delving too deep into her own life, Mars allowed the audience to reflect on their own experiences of envy, and asked many of them how exactly they have felt this way over the years, getting them to share. This gave the performance a unique feel, making it seem as if we were seeing something that would never be seen again.

With very little apart from her natural charisma and confidence, Mars carried what could have been an extremely divisive show with grace.

All that’s left to say is – Congratulations Rachel Mars. I’m so happy for you.

by Sam Walker