Constructed, curated and performed by award-winning artists Julia Masli and Viggo Venn, We Missed You presents the impact of the pandemic on the world through the eyes of clowns.
The forty-minute film is a collage of sound and video. It features recordings of people talking about their experience of the past year – what they miss about normal life and where they’ve managed to find joy in amongst all the chaos. These are layered over clips of Julia and Viggo wearing clown attire and pirate hats re-enacting each story.
Rather than literally recreating the only things we’ve been allowed to do all year, Julia and Viggo make excellent use of both movement and setting to evoke the emotions described. They depict the sense of isolation by sitting alone in the centre of a deserted London park. They reimagine the wistfulness for a return to normal life by blowing dandelions.
Shot around London, their antics clearly delight anyone who happens to wander by. Anyone familiar with Julia’s work will not be surprised to learn that every movement is tight and perfectly controlled. This film contains the most accurate mimic of a swan I’ve ever seen. It’s wonderful to watch them work.
The stories they’ve collected vary hugely from clip to clip. People talk about how much they miss their loved ones, but also about how they’ve appreciated an opportunity to slow down, to stop racing to keep up with the pace of the world. How they’ve found a way to take pleasure in simple things like a walk in the woods.
But it doesn’t shy away from the trauma and tragedy of the past year, of the losses people have experienced. The film is honest about the fear and pain that has been at the core of the pandemic. Each story is approached respectfully. For all the light-heartedness in it, the We Missed You is solemn when it needs to be.
Then there are the tales that are too painful to be recreated by loveable clowns. The past year has been a political and social maelstrom, with protests around the world in response to police brutality. When they touch on this, Julia and Viggo don’t try to lighten the mood or pretend any of it didn’t happen. They let people share their experiences honestly and allow the words to hang there in the space so you can feel the full weight of their impact.
We Missed You has the kind of ambiguous ending that can only come of a true story that is yet to end. The film is masterfully put together and has some incredibly profound moments. It takes you through the dark places but is not without hope.
We Missed You is streaming until June 11th via Camden People’s Theatre.