For a warped and wickedly funny slice of life, head to Komedia to see this corker of a comedy. Throughout the hour, the trio offer a laugh a minute – and that’s in the literal sense since each witty sketches lasts no longer. Broken up by a chuckle and a bell, the three meander from one hopeless real life scenario to another with grace and pace. The comics should be praised for their exemplary timing and characterisation; you get everything from the League-of-Gentleman-esque librarian and the mummy’s boy murderer, to the c*nt of a seven year old and birthday-for-one Mary. The descriptions hopefully speak for themselves so, needless to say, there’s pure comedy gold a’plenty; chuckles, belly laughs, cackles, wry smiles… and even some snorting and whinnies in the mix.
This short one act play has been loosely inspired by the murder of Theo Van Gogh. Working alongside the writer and women’s rights activist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Van Gogh directed the short film Submission, which portrayed violence against women in Islamic societies. Both Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh, as champions of free speech, sought to publically cinematise and raise awareness of the brutal crimes that had been inflicted on women in the name of religion. The short film triggered offence and outcry from the Dutch Muslim community and on the 2nd November 2004, Islamic extremist Mohammed Bouyero murdered Theo Van Gogh on the sunlit streets of Amsterdam. A letter addressed to Hirsi Ali was affixed to Van Gogh’s corpse with a knife, warning that she would be next.
ALINA, thirty-two. A short, stumpy woman with mousy brown hair and a friendly face.
VINCENT, thirty-five. Tall, dark and handsome.
This one act play is set in an upstairs flat in Ruritania on a cold and stormy night in November 2014.
– = interruption
O.S. = off stage
[ALINA is nervously pacing up and down a living room in a dark and dirty upstairs flat. Mould lines the window frames, and wallpaper is peeling off the walls from which empty picture and photo frames hang askew. Having checked her watch for the second time, ALINA wearily lowers herself onto a small two-seater sofa and flicks through the manuscript lying on the table. There’s a knock at the door. ALINA takes a deep breath, stands, and makes her way towards the door. She opens it and VINCENT stands before her.]
ALINA: Hello. Come in.
[ALINA moves aside to let VINCENT through. He walks in and awkwardly navigates the space. ALINA closes the door behind them, but not before checking the corridor outside.]
ALINA: Yeah, none of the lights work so it’s a bit… well, anyway. Please, take a seat.
[ALINA gestures towards the two-seater sofa. VINCENT doesn’t follow his cue.]
ALINA: Sorry, I should take your coat –
VINCENT: No, it’s ok, really. I’ll just keep it on.
ALINA: Yeah, sure –I know it’s nippy in here, sorry. Can I get you a drink or anything?
VINCENT: No, I think I’m ok.
[The two stand in awkward silence.]
VINCENT: Can I just check that we’re alone?
VINCENT: And we’re not likely to be interrupted at any point?
ALINA: No. I live alone.
VINCENT: And does anyone know I’m here? Have you spoken to anyone about –
ALINA: No, nobody.
ALINA: I haven’t done this before.
VINCENT: Neither have I.
ALINA: I’m nervous.
VINCENT: Me too.
ALINA: We’ve both got a lot at stake.
ALINA: I should say thank you for… well, for coming here, for agreeing to talk to me.
VINCENT: You didn’t leave me with much choice.
ALINA: Well, I knew it would get attention. I just didn’t know what kind. [Pause] Look, please sit down.
[ALINA indicates the small sofa and VINCENT takes a seat. ALINA, aware of the lack of space, crouches on the floor beside him.] Do you know what? I’m gonna make us a drink. [ALINA gets up again] It’s too formal, this, and I don’t really do formal so… drink?
VINCENT: Water would be good.
ALINA: Water. Sure. Coming up.
[ALINA leaves VINCENT alone as she heads to the kitchen. VINCENT quickly flicks a page or two through the manuscript.]
ALINA O.S.: Biscuit?
VINCENT: Er no. No, thank you.
[VINCENT stops flicking. ALINA returns with two glasses of water.]
ALINA: Here you go.
VINCENT: Thanks. [Looking around] Nice place.
ALINA: Ha! I mean thank you for saying something nice but it’s clearly a hole.
[ALINA crouches down on the floor again.]
VINCENT: Well, it’s got a certain –
ALINA: Don’t say charm.
ALINA: I’m not really the domestic type.
[VINCENT takes a sip of water]
VINCENT: So, Alina, tell me about yourself.
ALINA: What do you wanna know?
VINCENT: Well, I guess we could start with what you do?
ALINA: You know what I do.
VINCENT: Aside from –
ALINA: I’m a nurse.
VINCENT: A nurse?
ALINA: By day, yes.
VINCENT: And by night, I’m guessing you’re a – ?
ALINA: I’m attempting to be, yeah. [Pause] Sod this, I’m getting the wine.
[ALINA stands and heads back to the kitchen]
ALINA O.S.: I’ve got Malbec or… Malbec?
VINCENT: I’m ok, really.
ALINA O.S.: No, no, I insist. If we’re gonna do this, we might as well do it in style.
VINCENT: Ever been to Argentina?
ALINA O.S.: Random!
ALINA O.S.: Ah yes, of course. A man who knows his wine, I’m impressed. No, I haven’t but I’d love to someday. Have you?
[ALINA returns with two large glasses of red wine. VINCENT looks apprehensive.]
ALINA: Don’t worry, I rinsed them.
[ALINA returns to her crouching stance on the floor.]
VINCENT: Why did you decide to trust me?
ALINA: I had to trust someone.
VINCENT: So I’m the only one who knows about all of this?
ALINA: Yes. And I’d like to keep it that way for now.
VINCENT: That suits me just fine.
ALINA: You hear about what’s happened to the others and… well… it takes balls to trust anyone these days. You’re the first and only person I’ve talked to.
VINCENT: Why me?
ALINA: I’ve heard things about you, Vincent. Good things.
VINCENT: Nice to know. Who from?
ALINA: People talk.
VINCENT: They do, do they?
ALINA: Yeah. Well, when they think it’s safe to. And I’ve read stuff. Figured if I had to –
VINCENT: What have you read?
ALINA: Everything you’ve ever published. I know the language of the underworld, you see.
VINCENT: You do?
VINCENT: Elaborate for me.
ALINA: Oh come on, you know what I mean. We don’t have to play games here. [Takes a sip of wine] And I figured if I had to trust anyone, it might as well be you. So yeah, I do trust you. Well, I’m trusting you. Not sure if there’s a difference.
VINCENT: I’m risking a lot too, you know.
ALINA: I know. [Pause] What is it about this then? What’s making you take the risk?
VINCENT: I can sense your passion.
ALINA: That’s enough?
VINCENT: No, passion is never enough. But you have a lot of important things to say and I want to help you say them.
ALINA: You do?
VINCENT: I do.
ALINA: And I do, yeah. Very important things to say.
VINCENT: And you say them well.
ALINA: Thank you.
VINCENT: We need to start talking. People need to know.
VINCENT: No one has pushed back against them before and unless they’re challenged, they’ll win. That’s why I want to help you, why I’m putting my neck on the line.
ALINA: It’s not for me, it’s for them.
VINCENT: Of course.
ALINA: I want this to change or to at least start changing the way things are.
VINCENT: Well, I think you’ve got the potential to do just that.
ALINA: You do?
VINCENT: Change is possible at the edges.
ALINA: The truth’s trouble, eh?
VINCENT: The truth’s our weapon.
ALINA: And the book is an axe to break the frozen sea within us.
VINCENT: One you prepared earlier?
ALINA: Oh that’s Kafka’s. I pinched it.
VINCENT: How did you get your hands on him?
ALINA: These mitts get everywhere.
VINCENT: Seriously though?
ALINA: If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.
ALINA: Probably shouldn’t joke about that. [Pause] Forgot to mention I’m a lightweight.
VINCENT: I like it.
VINCENT: ‘An axe to break the frozen sea…’
ALINA: Yeah, me too. The sea’s powerful, as is the human spirit.
VINCENT: Cheers to that.
[VINCENT and ALINA clink glasses]
VINCENT: [Looks at manuscript] That’s it, right?
VINCENT: Has anyone else got a copy?
ALINA: No, just you.
VINCENT: Is there an e-copy?
ALINA: I don’t trust computers, no. And we all know about the cloud.
VINCENT: Yes, probably best hand-written. And yours is just about legible.
ALINA: You say the sweetest things.
ALINA: Bless you.
VINCENT: I didn’t… it’s –
ALINA: Ha, I know. Sorry, I’m making fun. You said it all wrong.
VINCENT: Well, it’s a bitch of a title.
ALINA: There’s not an English equivalent.
VINCENT: What does it mean?
ALINA: A feeling of being wronged, not by a person, but by a society.
ALINA: I thought so.
VINCENT: And how do I say it?
ALINA: Ok so, let’s take it syllable by syllable… “fur”, like the coat made of animals. You go.
ALINA: Very good. Next; “ron”, like the name, Ron. Do both.
VINCENT: “fur ron”
ALINA: Yeah, like fur on a coat. The next bit you have to say fast; “hellick”. The ‘g’ is like an ‘h’. You?
ALINA: Kinda. But with a throaty, guttural sound. hhh-hhh-hhh –
ALINA: “hellick”, yeah. Try again.
ALINA: Then the “heit” bit, “heit”, the ‘d’ sounds like a ‘t’ so “heit”.
ALINA: All together?
ALINA: One more time. Verongelijktheid.
ALINA: Ok, maybe we’ll change the title.
VINCENT: So these stories are real then?
ALINA: Pretty much. I edited and dramatized where necessary but they’re all true.
VINCENT: Where did you – ?
ALINA: The hospital. They come in on a daily basis.
VINCENT: And you’ve got evidence of this?
[There’s a sound in the distance.]
ALINA: [Quietly] Hold on.
[ALINA gets up and checks the peephole on the front door. She then heads towards the window and pulls the curtains aside to check the street down below.]
VINCENT: [Quietly] Alina?
ALINA: It’s nothing, sorry, I thought… [returning to her crouching position on the floor] Anyway, where were we?
VINCENT: Evidence? Have you got – ?
ALINA: Yeah. I’ve kept hard copies of all the interview transcripts and I’ve got the recordings. All on tape.
VINCENT: How did you manage to interview them?
ALINA: Again, the hospital. Who would suspect a nurse?
VINCENT: Where are they? The tapes?
ALINA: Safely hidden.
VINCENT: So you have proof?
ALINA: Yes, Vincent. I can prove it all. Every claim.
VINCENT: Are there any others?
ALINA: There are always others.
VINCENT: Are you writing them all up?
ALINA: Every single one.
VINCENT: Can I have a look?
ALINA: Yes, of course.
[ALINA gets up and walks over to her bag. She retrieves a case file.]
VINCENT: Is that all of them?
ALINA: No, just the last few years.
[ALINA hands VINCENT the case file.]
VINCENT: I asked you to bring everything.
ALINA: I know but I figured it was safer to go through it in stages. You know what it’s like out there.
ALINA: I didn’t want to risk it all in case they’re watching.
VINCENT: Yes, you’re completely right, Alina. I’m sorry.
[VINCENT starts flicking through the case file. ALINA takes a seat next to him on the small sofa.]
VINCENT: The last few years, you say?
ALINA: [Nodding] You really think we need to include more cases?
VINCENT: I think we need to include as many of them as possible. Perhaps we can even work on a handful of volumes and get them printed and distributed in one go, so we don’t get our throats slit before we get the chance to publish them all. That’s why I asked for everything.
ALINA: Well, we can always meet again, can’t we?
VINCENT: ‘Course we can. Is it ok if I take this with me?
ALINA: No. Sorry but I like to keep everything together.
VINCENT: In the safe place, right?
ALINA: Yeah. I call it my anarchist library.
ALINA: It’s not supposed to be cute.
VINCENT: So all the others are – ?
ALINA: Yeah, the rest of them are –
VINCENT: In your “anarchist library”?
VINCENT: And you’re sure they’re safe?
ALINA: As safe as they can be.
VINCENT: Do your friends know about this? Your family?
ALINA: I haven’t got any.
VINCENT: No family?
ALINA: No nothing. My parents died when I was quite young and I move around too often to keep any friends I make along the way.
ALINA: No. But it’s alright, I’m a tough cookie.
[VINCENT downs the rest of his wine]
VINCENT: I take it that it’s not an actual library?
ALINA: No, it’s a van.
VINCENT: A van?
ALINA: Yeah, my motor home.
VINCENT: What about – ?
ALINA: I don’t live here.
VINCENT: Then where the hell are we?
ALINA: Well, technically, I do live here. For the next forty-eight hours anyway.
VINCENT: You’ve lost me?
ALINA: I rented it out especially. In your honour.
VINCENT: Seriously? You rented out a flat for this?
ALINA: Yeah, well, you know. We live in a soulless society. You can’t trust anyone. I figured that in case we were being watched, they wouldn’t be able to find us or set my house on fire or anything like that.
VINCENT: You thought of everything, huh?
ALINA: I’ll take that as a compliment.
[VINCENT returns to the file]
VINCENT: “Francisca Van Alst…”
ALINA: The women have to be kept anonymous. I promised them that.
VINCENT: Yes, of course. [Begins to read the notes on Francisca Van Alst] “They think we do not talk, but we do…” Clearly.
ALINA: I haven’t finished writing that one up yet.
VINCENT: How many?
ALINA: Hundreds. Maybe more.
VINCENT: What about the hospital?
ALINA: What about it?
VINCENT: Do they know? The management, I mean?
ALINA: Probably, yeah, but they’d never do anything about it.
VINCENT: Why’s that?
ALINA: They don’t want to ruffle any feathers, I guess.
VINCENT: They won’t say anything?
ALINA: I doubt it. They’re a peculiar kind of evil those management types.
VINCENT: And your patients?
ALINA: Current ones, you mean?
ALINA: Well, I’m encouraging them to speak up but fear’s a pretty powerful deterrent.
VINCENT: But there’s a chance they’ll stand up for themselves and say something?
ALINA O.S.: There’s always a chance.
VINCENT: Give us a top up, will you?
[ALINA gets up, picks up the empty glasses and goes to the kitchen.]
VINCENT: So… tell me more about this van of yours?
[VINCENT quietly withdraws a handgun from his coat pocket]
ALINA O.S.: Well, it’s beige. Pretty dull, I know, but at least you can’t see the dirt on it. And it’s got really old school curtains, a cute little shower, and a single bed… I know, I’m thirty-two and I sleep on a single bed, tragic, huh?
[VINCENT nonchalantly attaches a silencer]
VINCENT: Where’s it parked?
ALINA O.S.: Right now it’s in The Hague but I’ll move it tomorrow. Not tonight – I’m too squiffy.
VINCENT: The Hague, hm? Nice. A friend of mine grew up near there.
ALINA O.S.: Oh really?
[ALINA returns carrying two full glasses of red wine. VINCENT shoots her… a double tap…and she drops to the floor, dead. VINCENT calmly packs the case file into his bag and, avoiding the spillage of wine and blood, makes a phone call]
VINCENT: [On the phone] It’s me. Send someone to The Hague – tell them to look out for a beige motor home and call me when it’s found, ok? [Pause] Have we dealt with Vincent Evers yet? [Pause] Good. The usual protocol with 43 Van Goghstraat, please. Oh and as for OVLG Hospital – burn it to the ground. [Pause] No, no evacuation necessary.
For those of you who have not yet encountered the bizarre world of immersive theatre, a visit to Shunt’s latest production of The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face should offer a good introduction to this experimental and downright weird realm of dramatic art. Set on a jetty overlooking the Thames and the Emirates Cable Cars (may as well catch a ride while you’re at it, it’s only £3.50 and you’ll observe some spectacular views of the city), Shunt will take you on a journey like no other. You might not climb out of your face – but you’ll certainly feel like you’re off your face.
Before you enter the yellow room where a woman with a vibrating and seemingly dislocated jaw will inform you that you’ve gone the wrong way about fifty times, you’ll be asked / encouraged / forced to take your shoes off… so prepare accordingly and get the Scholl out the night before. You’ll carry your shoe box with you as you enter another box – a box of rave. A masked man will unleash your inner goblin and before you know it, you’ll be waving your box in the air, wishing you’d packed the glow sticks. There are a mix of winners and losers in this room. It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts, so be prepared to lose, but, at some stage, glory will descent upon thee. And when it does, you’ll be escorted into a silent sauna via a forest. Sand will exfoliate your soles and toes as you peer behind trees, expecting to be set upon by all sorts of wild beasts. Someone will lose their bottle as they’re collecting their bottles… don’t expect to make friends, he’s a lonesome bush baby, and you’re there simply to take a lift elsewhere. That’s a literal lift. But one that doesn’t move. Nevertheless, the doors will open and you’ll bear witness to a blindfolded audience member (poor cow) being stroked by a woman with the most intense stare known to man. ‘I want to look at you’, she’ll sweetly sing into your ear as she moves onto her next victim. The waiflike creature will look into your eyes and, as the intensity increases, a piece of your soul will slither out – they’re slippery things, souls. If you’re not “chosen”, congratulations, you’ll get to make it out into the fresh air, where a bearded man in a blonde wig and a white dress will serenade you whilst standing on a cargo container overlooking a pool of dead babies. Oh and then he’ll get naked. But if you’re selected, you’ll become accustomed to the dark, and lose your friends while you’re at it.
Yes, it’s as trippy as it sounds.
Ok so, for a tenner, you may as well go along and spend half hour inside an acid junkie’s deluded mind. I mean, why not? If you like things that make sense, perhaps this isn’t for you (there’s no boy for starters; plenty of faces though). And if you’re one easily offended by the sight of dead babies, deformities and penises that waft in motion to the wind… either man up and get over it or stay at home. Or stick to Shunt’s bar.
As someone who has seen a fair amount of experimental, immersive, site-specific performance art, I can’t help feel a little disappointed. The space is incredible – a dramatist’s wet dream – but they didn’t do it justice in my book. There was room for a lot more “play” and they could have done so much more. It’s almost as though they’ve been a bit lazy about it; forsaking creativity by relying too heavily on the atmosphere of the venue. There’s certainly a vision (the sight of the dead babies will probably stay with me for some time, aka EVER), but it’s executed in a rather half-hearted way.
Saying that, you should go along anyway – it’s a cheap night out and it definitely offers something “different”. Plus the bar alone is well worth a visit regardless of whether you’re a theatre buff…
You can sip your glass of vino (£3.50 small, £7 large) as you wave “ahoy” to the pirate ships sailing by. Bar, boats and balminess. What better way to spend a summer’s evening?
No pics allowed… so catch the video here.
The Rock of Ages melting pot contains all the key ingredients for a good night out – sex, drugs, rock and roll, plus a mighty dollop of cheese – and minimal jazz hands, I’m pleased to report. Sexy, sassy and just plain silly, you’ll be up on your feet by the finale, clapping like a deranged seal; no doubt about it. So what’s it about? Well, to be absolutely honest, I’ve got no idea… but here goes anyway (spot the rock anthems):
There’s a boy and a girl so, yep, definitely an LA love story of sorts. Sherrie (Cordelia Farnworth) is chasing her dream of becoming an actress but she winds up working as a stripper – “oh Sherrie”, such a shame. Drew (Noel Sullivan), living under the pseudonym Wolfgang Van Colt, just “wanna rock” (excuse the grammar, blame Twisted Sister). Drew has been “waiting for a girl like” Sherrie all his life and she “want[s] to know what love is”. After a slight detour down a rocky road called Stacee Jaxx (Ben Richards) – tah dah, magic happens.
Oh and there’s a subplot. Two Germans arrive in town, intent on taking over the City they didn’t build and banishing rock and roll (boo!). The proletariat “don’t stop believin’” and there’s a protest where scantily clad women chain themselves to each other: they’re clearly “not gonna take it”. There’s a “final countdown” and a riot, which prompts the misunderstood, effeminate Franz (Cameron Sharp) to declare his love for “Vagina” (he’s not gay, he’s German). For no apparent reason, his cruel capitalist father, Hertz (Jack Lord), grows a heartz and supports his son’s dream of becoming a confectionary shop owner. The Germans wave auf wiedersehen to the hairy headed rockers, leaving them to do what they do best… rock out, maaaan…
So yeah, it’s a bit random. And the way I’ve forced the songs into the overview matches the manner in which they’re forced into the intentionally obscure plot.
Between them, the cast sport fine sets of lungs – they can really belt those tunes out and you’ll want to wave your goosebumpy arms in the air. That being said, a lot of the dialogue is lost to mumbling and, at times, the slapstick comedy is more awkward than funny. I did, however, enjoy Lonny’s massive penis mime – thanks Stephen Rahman-Hughes.
As you might expect with this type of musical, there’s the odd moment of audience interaction, but this lacks the crucial ability to confidently adlib and improvise. Oh and don’t sit in the front row, unless you don’t mind being accused of having herpes.
Sullivan and Farnworth don’t disappoint as the leading man and lady; they’ve got great chemistry and stunning voices. I actually thought Bret Michaels walked on stage at one point, which is a testament to Richards’s Stacee Jaxx: nobody has ever looked so sexy in a bandana. And don’t get me started on the cowboy hat. In all seriousness, Richards rocked. Rahman-Hughes as self-confessed narrator has a strong strange presence, and despite a dodgy accent (sorry), he grows on you… like a cute but mangy stray dog might (he’s got a lot of hair). You just want to take him home.
So if you’re into the rock and roll lifestyle, if you love a bit of raunchy naughtiness, if you don’t take yourself too seriously (or anything else for that matter), then this is probably for you. I, personally, love nothing more than having my face melted… so come feel the noise, girls grab the boys, and get wild, wild, wild at Theatre Royal Brighton this summer.
Cabaret at Komedia on a Bank Holiday weekend – there’s nothing quite like it! And a night with Dusty Limits? Well, he’s something else (something very good but something very else). Dusty positively radiates charm and charisma. It’s hard not to fall in love with him from the get-set-go of the show. He has so much stage presence; you can’t tear your eyes away. Talking of eyes, his practically “pop” (in fact, I might try out that makeup on myself).
“Smizing” (that’s smiling with your eyes for those who don’t watch ANTM) and schmoozing aside, Dusty is one hell of a talented performer. His voice prompts a fair few goosebumps on unsuspecting limbs… (by which I’m talking about arms and legs, you dirtbags!)! The songs themselves are brilliantly written and perfectly performed. Musician and composer, Michael Roulston, accompanies Dusty on the piano. The two have great chemistry and pizzazz (did I just say “pizzazz”? Sorry…).
There are songs about MSM (men who have sex with men who protest they aren’t “gay” or “bisexual”), completion anxiety (an artist’s inability to finish anything they start – totes know the feeling), a retrospective look at the ridiculous debates surrounding gay marriage (and the ludicrousness of the House of Lords), family f*ck-heads (a rather warped yet fitting family portrait), and the show culminates with a psychotic medley, which includes “real” disorders from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; aka, comedy gold).
The show will have you laughing your arse off but there are also some touching moments too that will no doubt prompt a fair whack of reflection as you undertake your journey home. Dusty exposes the absurdities of the DSM; there’s even a condition called “temper dysregulation disorder”, which is basically another name for “teenager”. Dusty makes a good point; if we’re all depressed and anxious doesn’t it mean there’s something wrong with the world… and not us? He also portrays attitudes to the elderly and homeless in a way that makes you giggle one minute and squirm the next. We soon realise that Society is the one who’s f*cked up, not us. Dusty & Michael question the need to stick labels on everyone, the willingness to hand out pills in order to help us cope with life. We’re also reminded that homosexuality was once classified as a mental disorder and suddenly the show is laced with an inescapable fear, an anxiety of our own making (well not ‘ours’ – theirs – the powers-that-be, I mean). That being said, the sensitive subject matter is handled with care and Dusty’s striking honesty and open vulnerability entrances throughout.
Oh and as with any cabaret, there’s a nice dollop of audience participation where you get to shout “cock” at the top of your lungs and scream your heart out to the tune of “I’m not normal”. Arrh, we all felt better after that. We all need a bit of Dusty in our lives. Check him out next time he’s in town!
[Komedia, Brighton – @KomediaBrighton / Dusty Limits – @DustyLimits / Brighton Fringe – @BrightonFringe / http://www.michaelroulston.co.uk ]
Globe-trotting Y2D Productions’ LEO has finally landed on our side of the pond. This multi-award winning show has triggered many a gasp from audiences across New York, Moscow and the Edinburgh Fringe… and it isn’t hard to see why. This one man, one-of-a-kind physical theatre piece not only defies theatrical convention, but it also challenges our sense of gravity and reality through the clever interplay of superlative acrobatic performance and high tech video projection.
From the get-set-go of curtain up, we are introduced to LEO and his topsy-turvy world. Trapped in a single room, he begins to realise that gravity isn’t what it once was. To his dismay, his hat gets stuck to the wall, his legs repel the floor and everything becomes a lot more… bendy and bizarre. Flummoxed by his tie’s stubbornness to lie horizontally, LEO discovers that he is suddenly able to do weird and wonderful things with his body, and with the room itself. He becomes a modern-day Spiderman (minus the outfit), navigating walls and making sense of the space whilst floating, for the most part upside-down, inside-out and back-to-front, across surfaces and ceilings within his personal, gravity-defining cube. As he tries to understand the limits and loopholes of this new realm of reality, LEO slowly starts figuring out what’s possible and what isn’t – no wait, everything’s possible. The more LEO experiments with his world, the more he starts to have fun with it. As do we!
Aside from mind-melting and brain-bending illusions, what else can you expect? Well, LEO’s magical-musical suitcase will certainly shake things up – the various tunes that emit out of the luggage inspire LEO to play around with his new-found weightlessness. We get the very best of where dance meets physical theatre. It is very, very cool. Even though the techniques used are elegantly simple and easily identifiable, you’ll probably find yourself wondering how on earth he can do those things with his body. He defies the laws of nature!
There is a team of three LEO’s – and tonight’s LEO, aka an “acro-dance-clown-music-graphic hybrid”, is one hell of a talented performer. Not only can he dance, walk on walls and mould his body into any necessary position, but he can also play the harmonica… oh and he’s an incredible artist too. I don’t know anybody else who can draw such a convincing cat, especially while hanging upside-down. Also, his drawings come alive. And that’s in the literal sense. Think I’m kidding? I’m not.
Saying that, the show could do with picking up pace and shaving off perhaps fifteen minutes or so. There are times when the choreography goes on for too long, triggering evident restlessness within the aisles of the auditorium. For the most part, we laugh along at the ridiculousness and wonder of LEO’s situation, but this engagement dips as certain elements are overly drawn out. It is a case of over-egging the pudding, I’m afraid, and it is because of this that some of the magic is lost. The show could be condensed into a much shorter timeframe without losing its overall essence, which would help the audience maintain a high level of awe throughout. It’s a shame because LEO deserves better. However, I do not deny that this show achieves a breath-taking level of ‘extraordinary’ and, all in all, this is a spellbinding, gasp-evoking, dazzler of a show.
From the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to New York, Moscow and Hong Kong, the multi-award winning show, LEO, arrives on our humble shores in April. For those intrigued about defying gravity, get booking – because this one man, one-of-a-kind physical theatre piece not only defies theatrical convention, but it also challenges our sense of gravity and reality through the clever interplay of superlative acrobatic performance and high tech video projection. Universally appealing to adults and children alike, this is the funny, intriguing and moving journey of a seemingly ordinary man whose world becomes physically unhinged.
Having caught a sneak peek, thanks to the preview video, I was uber-keen to speak to Y2D Productions Inc. Creative Producer, Gregg Park, to find out more. Y2D Productions Inc. is a Montréal-based Production Company, whose principal focus is to create and tour original, innovative and entertaining shows for the international performing arts market. Parks has toured the world as an onstage performer and gradually became fascinated with production and its extraordinary possibilities. And, from the praise LEO has received, this breath-taking level of ‘extraordinary’ has resulted in a mind-bending, spellbinding, gasp-evoking, dazzler of a show. I caught up with Gregg to see if I could get any trade secrets out of him…
Without spoiling the surprise, can you tell us a bit about the show?
GP: First and foremost, the audience will be surprised. The techniques that the show uses are very simple but they are totally unexpected. They can expect to laugh as there are many funny sections in the show and many audiences also find the show surprisingly touching. The show presents the story of a character, LEO, who finds himself in what is, at first, a pretty impossible situation but slowly, as the situation evolves and as LEO continues to try to figure out what is going on, the audience tends to relate emotionally to LEO more and more.
What inspired you to take on gravity and where did the idea for this show come from?
The story of LEO is that we find this character, trapped in a single room. First he discovers that the gravity has changed and as he tries to understand, the more he figures it out, the more he starts to have fun with it. It is through all of this exploration and discovery that the different elements of the show come into play.The idea to try playing with a camera turned on its side came from the original performer Tobias Wegner and it was first incorporated into the production myLIFE that played in Berlin for a year. As a result of the evolution of the ideas during the year, it was decided to experiment further with the ideas that had developed, to see if it was possible to create a longer work. The result of that work is LEO.
Were there any bumps in the road? Or any surprises along the way?
There were many bumps in the road. We tried huge sets with furniture built onto the sides of walls and a trampoline. We had at one moment the entire set covered in green screen fabric held in place by electromagnets. But at each step the show wanted to stay simple. Each time we had a really complicated idea, it didn’t really work that well, but each time we found a simple solution it worked better.
Tell us about the training; how long did it take to become weightless?!
The training to be weightless is both more and less than one would expect. Maintaining the positions and the movements that are required for over an hour place significant demands on the body. To date, all of the performers who have performed LEO have had a circus artist background. While the show does not incorporate very many acrobatics specifically the training itself is important in allowing the performer to keep track of his orientation in space and to maintain the positions needed for over an hour.
What would you suggest to those who want to train and work in physical theatre? What’s the best way of developing such unique performance skills?
The best way to go for anyone wanting to do physical theatre is to take all types of physical training. Dance classes, martial arts, acrobatics, ball room dancing, resistance training….. anything and everything physical will help. The point is not to ever underestimate the benefit to be gained by exposure to a different training/movement style or form.
You’ve toured the world with this show – tell us, who was the toughest crowd to please?
So far I think the toughest audience was in Moscow. They have a very deep theatrical history and they are used to seeing a lot of theatre. Also, their natural reactions are quite different than western audiences. They were, frequently, much quieter during the show but their reactions at the end were really, really satisfying. In fact LEO went back to Moscow twice last year.
Have you performed in Brighton before? If so, what do you think of Brighton? If not, what have you heard about our beloved city?
No this will be both the show’s and the team’s first time in Brighton. We are really looking forward to it. Brighton has such a long history we are hoping that we can leave a little mark of our own.
Ok, come on then, tell us – “HOW DO YOU DO IT?!”
Well, we don’t like to talk too much about the techniques used in the show because even though we hide nothing and it is very clear to the audience from the very first seconds what we are doing and how we are doing it, we like to maintain a bit of mystery about it before audiences come into the theatre so as to maintain their curiosity. However, I would say that there isn’t just one thing in the show that is surprising – there are many. In fact many audiences and critics have noted that just as you are about to ask the question what can possibly come next, something else, completely unexpected happens.