All is not what it seems in the Royal Court’s That Is Not Who I Am, an “internet thriller” directed by security industry veteran Dave Davidson. For a start, that isn’t really the name of the play – it’s called Rapture – and Dave Davidson doesn’t exist.
It’s a bold gambit. From the outset the real playwright Lucy Kirkwood – whose recent work includes The Children, Mosquitoes and The Welkin – invites the audience to participate in her grand conspiracy. Before the curtain raises a note from the Royal Court is projected over the stage claiming the playwright was forced to use a pseudonym as she investigated the ‘real-life’ deaths, in an apparent murder-suicide, of protagonists Noah and Celeste.
We meet the young, attractive pair on a blind date for a newspaper column, where they bond over conspiracy theories, from nefarious chemtrails to 9/11 being an inside job.
Then out steps Lucy Kirkwood – or rather someone playing Lucy Kirkwood – claiming the events are reconstructed from thousands of hours of illicitly-filmed footage of the couple.
The audience must work out whether there is a genuine conspiracy here – that Noah’s increasingly revolutionary and popular vlogs had run afoul of murderous agents – or if the most prosaic, tragic answer is in fact true.
The majority of the action takes place inside an impressive rotating recreation of the couple’s pokey flat, giving the events a voyeuristic feel – something that’s amplified by the easy chemistry between the leads.
And while the concept sounds a little silly – and indeed the finale descends into knowing farce – Kirkwood tackles some serious issues. At its heart, this is a play about a struggling young couple who, through a combination of lockdown isolation, poverty and distrust of the state, see their playful interest in conspiracy theories morph into full-blown obsession.
That Is Not Who I Am (or Rapture) a play about the dangers of living in a society in which we can’t trust those in power, and how that mistrust can ripple out in unexpected, sometimes violent ways.
It’s also a breezy, often very funny hour and three quarters in which the audience is led both up the garden path and down the rabbit hole, eventually emerging into the light wondering what on earth just happened.