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  • Embracing Authenticity: Creating The Death & Life of All of Us

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    What does it mean to be truly authentic?

    That's the question Victor Esses has been trying to answer through The Death & Life of All of Us - a project twenty years in the making and a true story of a special intergenerational relationship. Victor reflects on creating a show about belonging, coming into one's queerness & an ever-present connection to the past.

    Daily, online and irl, we’re inundated with filters, façades, and curated personas, making it easy to get lost in the pursuit of societal ideals and expectations. It’s not just the physical image, but also our beliefs, personalities and so on. But what does it mean to be truly authentic? This is a theme I've been unpicking since the start of our work on The Death & Life of All of Us, from its first R&D two years ago through an Edinburgh run, and now, a tour that culminates at CPT.

    I've come to realise that authenticity is less about conforming to a predetermined mould and more about embracing our unique essence - and owning our truth, flaws and all. It's about having the courage to show up as our genuine selves, unapologetically and unabashedly, even when we don’t know what we are.

    But authenticity doesn't equate to unfiltered transparency in every aspect of our lives. There are times when a certain degree of fabrication or concealment is not only acceptable, but necessary, for self-preservation and social harmony. We all wear different hats and play various roles in our lives – as a friend, a partner, a professional, a parent. Sometimes withholding certain truths is less of a habit and more a strategic choice, a means of protecting ourselves or others from unnecessary harm or discomfort.

    This is the journey I’ve been on, ever since being a queer teenager in an environment that was the opposite of what I felt my insides wanted to be. And perhaps that’s why, when I heard about my great aunt Marcelle - who had converted to Christianity and never told her children that she was once Jewish, and lived a completely different reality to what we were used to, I became fascinated and did all I could to go and meet her. Twenty years ago, as a young film student, I travelled to Rome to spend time with Marcelle with the hopes of making a documentary about her life. I never finished the documentary - but my experiences with her have formed the basis of this show, two decades on.

    Over time I’ve had to encounter my queer self in queer spaces, navigating through trying out different personas, actions and characteristics. After lots of trial and error I wonder if perhaps the key lies in striking a balance between authenticity and necessary fabrications. Authenticity extends beyond just the external face we present to the world; it's a deeply rooted alignment with our innermost values, beliefs, and aspirations. And these are ever-changing, just like the world around us.

    So, how do we cultivate authenticity in a world that often values perfection over vulnerability, conformity over individuality? It starts with self-awareness – a willingness to explore our inner landscape, confront our fears and insecurities, and embrace our authentic selves, warts and all.

    It also requires cultivating compassion – for ourselves and others – recognizing that authenticity is a journey, not a destination, and that we're all imperfect beings navigating the complexities of human experience. So, the question is: what can I do today to move more toward this ideal?

    The Death & Life of All of Us isn't just about Marcelle, who's fearless way of reinventing herself fascinated me both twenty years ago and now. It's also about the struggle all of us face to live authentically, and bravely, especially in spaces where that might be difficult. Can you be yourself without hurting someone else? And what is the cost of a life where you can't?

    It's been a joy to share this show - and this very human experience - with audiences. If you're joining us at CPT this April, I hope this story helps you to think about the connections in your own life, and your (maybe ever-changing) sense of self. See you in the bar...

    The Death & Life of All of Us

    Tue 2 - Sat 6 April at 7.30pm and Tue 9 - Sat 13 April at 9pm

    Tickets £8 - 15

    Victor Esses

    “Keep up the good work producing cutting-edge theatre for everyone in London”

    Councillor Jonathan Simpson, 29 January 2018