Yve Blake’s Then is a peculiar nostalgia hit like no other. The show, put on at the Australian Theatre for Young People at The Wharf, is a one-person performance that draws upon the experiences of hundreds of people from around the world. It’s based around a site that the show’s creator Yve made a couple of years ago called WhoWereWe.com that invited total strangers to submit anonymous stories based around a single question: “Who did you used to be?” We may not know who we are now or where we’re going, but the question of who we were is something that every one of us can relate to.
Then contains the stories of foolish children, reckless teenagers, and worried forty-somethings alike, read aloud — and translated into absurd songs, which Yve delivers with aplomb in a variety of ridiculous costumes. My favourite number involved Yve cavorting wildly in a suit sporting immense shoulder pads up to her ears and singing about the good old days in the hills of Yorkshire when life had structure.
Then is not an ordinary show.
Without a doubt, it is Yve’s explosive personality which makes Then so utterly engaging. From the very start, when she walks into the room and gives us all a conspiratorial glance, we are drawn into her world of the remembered past viewed through the lens of indulgent and sometimes regretful hindsight. While most of the hundred-plus stories she shares throughout are funny or interesting enough to stand on their own, the way that Yve delivers them — using silly voices, animated expressions and insane graphical and musical cues, all interspersed with her strange, abrupt songs — means that not once during the show’s seventy-minute running time did my attention wander.
It’s not all fun and games, either. Serious and sombre accounts are woven in here and there, with one particularly haunting song drawing tears, but Yve makes sure to finish the show on a high note with a remonstrance about being wary of trolls. It’s a fitting end for a show filled with such enthusiasm and absurdity drawn purely from human experience, and it leaves you with that curious mix of warm sleepy happiness and a hard-to-describe melancholy that is the mark of bittersweet nostalgia delivered perfectly.