“Claire is a younger version, Cat will come out in bursts… They come into play at different points in my life, depending on what I need, what I want. I’m certainly more Kate at this point. She’s trying to find something secure.”
As Edinburgh rain unexpectedly falls, as it so likes to do, Catherine Duquette tells me which of her four ‘alter-egos’ from her one-woman show she feels most like at this point. This is characteristic of Duquette’s straight-forward honesty, something which is in turn characteristic of her show.Though calling it a ‘show’ may be misleading. In fact, ‘#INSTALOVE’ is crafted by each audience that sees it as they respond to the questions and actions of Kate, Claire, Cat and Kris, the four participants all skilfully embodied by Duquette, as they search for whatever it is they want in their love life, though they all seemed to working with very different ideas of ‘love.’ “Every show is different!” says Duquette. Indeed, watching the show I thought and later said to Duquette, audience participation seems to mild a word for it, it seemed more like “audience creation.” She enthusiastically agreed saying that it came about when, in a mild dislike of solo shows, she began “using the audience as players”. As a video game writer, like Kris one of the characters, she’s intrigued by “interactivity” as she wants the audience to have “a different kind of experience” from the normal one way interaction in shows.
As an audience member, I certainly did. As Duquette became four different people, I saw the people around me answer deeply personal questions, sometimes about their hopes and dreams, sometimes about their sex life. I somehow found myself confessing a reluctant belief in “the one” to the sweet, bright-eyed, earnest Claire. This may sound intense but I couldn’t stop laughing, and I definitely wasn’t alone. Laughter, partly due to the freshness of the audience participation and partly because of just how on the nose these characters, and slight caricatures, were.
“I noticed a pattern of personas that were trying to sell themselves as something and trying to attract a certain type of person,” Duquette explains. This observation is familiar to anyone who has dated, online or off. A presentation of a certain image has always been a feature since dating was called ‘courting’. Yet as Duquette points out “And we all try to sell ourselves as something unique and special but our needs are not that unique…” Underneath all the laughter, this is the astuteness to ‘#INSTALOVE’: the recognition that the things we say we want are not as special as we think they are. Equally, there is an astute comment on this market element of the ‘dating market’ where people seek, and advertise on dating sites or apps, for something precise, someone with particularly desirable features.
For me, the sense of ‘maybe we’re all the same’ is in the experience of the show itself as person after person answered Duquette’s probing questions. Duquette sincerely hopes the show will help people look at themselves, not critically but with a heartfelt intention to help people grow. Both funny and well-meaning, ‘#INSTALOVE’ is not your regular improvised comedy.