I was attracted to this show, as presumably intended, by its subtitle: “One girl’s electrifying encounter with Nina Simone”. It’s also directed by Kirsty Patrick Ward, who directed the impressive Chef by Sabrina Mahfouz in 2014. To my disappointment however, Exactly Like You doesn’t live up to the expectations generated by that tagline, and the show as it stands didn’t have enough substance to grab me either.
Lotte Rice is talented, and she does sing beautifully – just not like Nina Simone. In the role of her character (no name is given to her), Rice’s delivery of the lines she has written herself is poetic, and packs a punch. But sadly, I don’t think the theme of the show is enough to sustain interest: Rice seeks inspiration for life from her late grandmother, through the songs she loved.
On the other hand, on the day I attended, a whole bunch of young women in the audience did find plenty to be amused by. Alcohol plays a secondary role – the set is the front room of the young woman’s flat, and bottles of beer are stashed away everywhere. Those fellow audience members laughed especially loud at Rice’s admittedly humorous dance when supposedly drunk, and her crawl across the floor in a similar state, too.
Not all good shows have universal appeal. This one didn’t work for me, but I seemed to be in the minority on the day I saw it. And to be fair there was also creative direction evident – not just in the acclaimed dance when Rice made out she had limbs of rubber, but throughout. For me the issue is merely the strength and relevance of the story, but this is solvable; I’m certainly not writing off either Rice herself, or this particular show.