The Place, London
April 6, 2022
Delayed from its appearance at the London International Mime Festival earlier in the year, Nikki Rummer’s first solo show, Unbroken, tells of a gathering called by her father in Seattle at Christmas 2001. It starts with her introducing the three generations of her family present. It sounds the perfect get together. Only, as she tells us more than once over the show’s 55 minutes, “It wasn’t quite like that.”
The slightly jokey opening is in stark contrast to what follows. Rummer is an engaging storyteller. She brings the family, represented by name cards on the backs of chairs, to remarkably vivid life. Memories abound as she takes us back to how the various couples met. It also turns out that there is a reason for everyone gathering for what we discover will be one last Christmas all together.
Unbroken is intensely personal. Rummer’s deep respect for her father, and grief at his unexpected news fills the theatre. But then, the show takes an unexpected turn into darkness. That Christmas turns out to be a very bittersweet time as previously unspoken secrets come to the surface. How do you process, how do you come to terms with the fact that someone you have always loved, committed immoral acts?
Rummer, well-known for her physical theatre and circus work, especially as one half of Nikki & JD, gets through it partly with some graceful, acrobatic dance. Anyone who thinks acrobatics cannot be filled with emotion needs to see this. She somehow manages to instil moments of suspension in her tumbles and cartwheels that you wouldn’t think possible. Handstands are motionless and go on for ever. But the most powerful moment is when she just stands there, silent: doing nothing but saying so much.
It may have all happened twenty years ago, but there’s a strong suggestion that Rummer has been trying to process everything that came to light ever since, maybe still hasn’t quite worked her way through it, and that this show, is part of her catharsis or healing process.
Along the way, Unbroken also draws parallels with the Last Supper, which she depicts as a rather boozy affair, and Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Rummer’s depiction of the disciples arguing is very funny, and the scene does provide relief from the main narrative, but I’m far from convinced it gels fully. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that Unbroken is a deeply affecting show that hits you right where it should.