Recently, a close friend called me “aggressively punctual”, and a little bit of me took some pride in that. It’s something I realise I share in common with Super Duper Close Up’s protagonist, as she stares into the audience and narrates arriving seven minutes early for a meeting. “It gives me the moral high ground”, she says, and it triggers a guilty pang of recognition. Jess Latowicki has some sort of violent and messy line-of-sight straight into the back of my brain and it’s very uncomfortable.

I keep noticing intricate and specific details of this character that feel taken directly from my life. It’s almost spooky. I see myself in her circumstances, in her family history, in her mannerisms and tics and paranoia. Most of all, I recognise her confusion, her tangled, overlapping, interloping storylines. There’s an element of horoscope to this play: Latowicki is tapping into our odd and private shared idiosyncrasies and laying them bare on stage, and it feels tailor-made just for me. And I’m sure the entire audience feels like this. Or at least, I think they do.

Much of the 80-minute monologue is filmed and projected onto a hanging screen. There are questions raised about gaze and perspective here – photography and videography have become a gold-standard in objectivity and truth, a picture-perfect representation of the act as it happens. But here we’re subtly reminded that a camera has an angle, and a lens, and chooses what to capture and what to leave out. At one point, Latowicki launches into an erratic dance to a pulsating electronic beat, and on camera, it has a strange grip, with close shots and narrow angles and colour and flare and swooping shots. But dancing on stage, flailing, alone, she is suddenly more awkward than the mesmerising screen allows. It’s a realisation that her character grasps but struggles to digest: that screens, and cameras, and a certain image-based social media platform all distort our self-image. 

As the play draws towards its swelling conclusion, that relationship is inverted. The camera zooms in to a Super Duper Close Up on Latowicki’s mouth and we see her shaky breathing and slicks of sweat. The stories she tells have become overwhelming, and it’s a struggle to pick apart the mythic from the real. She rapidly flicks between strands of storytelling and, disoriented, I begin to lose track as the production sacrifices coherence in favour of vivid and violent anguish. 

In spite of its name, Super Duper Close Up lives not in its specifics but in its generalities, and thrives not on stage or screen but in your head. It’s a sparse play: with just one set, just one actor, and a drilling roboticism to its performance. We’re never shown the venue where she has her meeting; we’re never introduced to her Jewish grandfather or shown photos of an Instagram model in Ithica. But those images were wedged into each of our imaginations, each individual with their own vision of these shared images. And so when the narratives became confusing, I felt it, sharp and disorienting, in my own head.

It’s not always an easy watch, but it’s worth it: the same elements that make this show challenging make it compelling.

4/5

Super Duper Close Up runs at The Yard Theatre until 24th November

Image: John Hunter at RULER

Theatre Editor
Matt has just finished four years of mathematics at University College London, and is now taking the logical next step of pursuing a career in theatre. As well as an avid critic, he is a passionate director and producer, with credits including Protest Song at the Camden People's Theatre and Rhinoceros at The Shaw.

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