ANXIETY by Kate Story

Photo by Andy Carrol

Anxiety by Kate Story

Reviewed by Nina Wolf

ANXIETY is an 80-minute, one-woman show performed and written by the captivating Kate Story. The show takes us through Story’s lockdown hyperfixation on the epic tale of Beowulf, a heroic Anglo-Saxon poem written in Old English and one of the oldest surviving stories of its kind. During the pandemic, while some were learning how to bake bread, crochet, or make those instant coffee drinks that were all the rage, Story was on a quest to find the best modern translation of this famous tale. Growing up with a lexicographer father, Story has always been aware of the power of words and how they shape us, how they can change history and perspective with a single swapping of synonyms. Story uses Beowulf’s triumphs and tribulations to shed light on her personal feats and fumbles and make essential and poignant political statements. She discusses the erasure of women from works of fiction and professional fields such as academia and how colonizers have used the social construct of race to justify the mistreatment of others. She analyses her own biases and takes a deep dive into what makes us into who we are: how the individual components of our language, culture, and upbringing create a cohesive yet confusing whole.

Story’s wonderful writing and performance allow audiences to witness a unique version of the Beowulf tale that is equally educational and entertaining. It combines contemporary dance with traditional singing, linguistic leaps between Old and modern English, and a distinctive visual style with its minimalist set. The show feels like a book reading, slam poetry, stand-up, and cultural festival show all in one. What audiences may find surprising, given the topics covered and the raw emotionality of the show, is just how hilarious it is! When pulling back to her anecdotal experiences, the story’s tonal shift creates an air of conversation and familiarity that puts the audience at ease and allows for these comedic moments to work.

Photo by Andy Carrol

At its core, ANXIETY is about identity. This is a topic that Story is uniquely equipped to tell, having been born in Newfoundland and moving away at the young age of 16 to traverse the country. However, the show never strives to impose on the audience who they are supposed to be. Instead, Story bares herself by donning different characters, from a fierce dragon to a dying old man, to translate the unfathomable ordeal of being human in today’s complicated and often scary world, which may not be littered with literal monsters but requires tremendous bravery nonetheless. The pacing and energy of the show echo Story’s own enthusiasm, which never falters, making it easy to stay engaged and curious throughout. Turns out, it is precisely this curiosity that Story wishes to impart. In the end, staying curious about the world around us is the best way to never let it beat us down and scare us away.

ANXIETY will be performed as part of this year’s Festival of New Dance at the LSPU Hall on September 26th (Tuesday) and September 27th (Wednesday) at 7.30 p.m. The Festival runs from September 26th until October 7th and features many fabulous shows! To find out more, visit the Resource Centre for the Arts website.

Nina Wolf is an actor, writer, and amateur photographer based in St. John’s.