Ellie Stamp looks a little like someone you know. There’s something recognisable; something in her face, the way she stands maybe. Or at least so she coaxes us into thinking. Standing on stage and informing her audience that people always think they know her, Stamp suddenly begins to take on the character of familiar faces. Could she even look a bit like Elvis?
Like Chris Thorpe’s Confirmation, Are You Lonesome Tonight? investigates the ways in which we form and reaffirm our own beliefs, finding and following patterns as a way of navigating everyday life. The focus, however, falls in a very different place. In Stamp’s show, these biases and patterns offer a way of discussing mental health, a subject often still hindered by fear, discomfort and ignorance. If we’re all programmed to join up the dots, what happens when the picture differs from the one that most people see?
Stamp’s route into this discussion is an unabashedly personal one. She recalls how, in 2010, a family member informed her that she was the secret love child of Elvis. It’s a belief that would be instantly labelled delusional by society, but Stamp chooses to delve deeper into how we define notions of sanity and “madness”. Gently involving her audience, she provokes us to think about how others see us, how we see ourselves, and the lenses through which we look at the world.
The everyday faith that we place in otherwise meaningless patterns and coincidences is lightly questioned through the art of numerology – a particular interest of Elvis’s – while the criteria for diagnosing delusional beliefs reveals supposed sanity to be a murky old thing. In the end, it essentially comes down to whether the beliefs you hold are shared by the majority of others.
The interactive element of the show is deftly handled, drawing us in with a hint of gameplay before later unveiling the intelligence behind what had felt like sheer silliness. As well as these number games, Stamp uses elements of song, video and performance art, frequently channelling the King himself. The show can occasionally have something of a scattergun quality, but like all patterns it gradually reveals its own unique logic.