Squeeze My Cans
- Gareth K Vile
- 9 August 2017
A personal confession from inside the world of Scientology
Cathy Schenkelberg was a member of the Church of Scientology for over a decade, spending close to a million dollars in the quest to become a 'clear' (a stage on the path to 'personal salvation', when the Church deems a person to have become free of the influence of unwanted emotions and memories of trauma). Squeeze My Cans is honest, revealing both her seduction by the cult and the destruction of her confidence, personality and independence, but lacks the structural finesse to do more than tell a harrowing story.
In a rush to expose her experience, Schenkelberg packs too much into the show: key terms are mentioned but not explained, moments of high tension are passed over rapidly, and she does not answer the fundamental question: what could persuade an intelligent woman to join a famously sinister group in the first place? There's a sense that the performance is an act of therapy, an attempt to rid herself of the behaviours she had adopted.
However, she has both charisma and storytelling skills, relating shocking moments – and celebrity gossip – in a way that emphasises how familiarity can even make appalling ideas feel comfortable. When she finally realises the sham of the Church, the hollowness of its teachings and values are made clear – although the repression and selfishness of its internal policing have been exposed before. It's a fascinating tale, told by a great performer, but lacks the theatricality to push home its message.
Assembly Rooms, until 27 Aug (not 14, 21), 3.10pm, £10–£12 (£8–£10).