Review: GOlive Extended - Thick and Tight & 70/30 Split - Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Performance: 20 May - 7 June 2014
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Thursday 22 May 2014

Thick and Tight. Photo: Margherita Elliot

Thick and Tight & 70/30 Split

The two duos in last night’s innovative pub-dance festival GOlive Extended were thinking men and women’s cabaret. Clever, naughty, innovative and punchy works by both are what I now associate with Donald Hutera’s fringy new festival, in its second season at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, Kentish Town.

Daniel Hay-Gordon and Eleanor Perry (Thick and Tight) embody unlikely couples, imagining the kind of conversations, through text and dance, which the likes of Edith Sitwell might have had with Franz Schubert and Sigmund Freud with pop-idol Madonna.

Perry is severe and bizarre as she plays the eccentric, aristocratic poet taking tea with a nervous and introverted Schubert. Her movements are angular and crisp as she dances in an expressionistic style, yet she plays uptight and formal in keeping with the woman she is representing. Flushed by the rosy hues of a lamp positioned on a quintessentially English tea table, the minimalist stage conveys an appropriate setting for the interplay of two socially awkward yet inspirational characters.

When Hay-Gordon finally stands up to dance his persona dramatically changes from shy interviewer to a passionate, lyrically indulgent dancer, abounding with confidence and physical dexterity in contrast to Perry’s studied brittleness. As they dance together, she avoids any direct intimacy with her partner by holding a mirror in front of her face, suggesting Sitwell’s narcissism and supposed asexuality.

In Freud and Madonna’s last shag, an even more imaginative coupling, Perry and Hay-Gordon envisage what would have taken place in the nursing home had the two sex obsessives ended up together as geriatrics. Perry complete with strap on phallus and beard fumbles with the cross-dressing Hay-Gordon, scantily clad in black bra, heels and stockings. He’s great at reminding us of Madonna’s ‘80s dance style: the way she flaunted her body, her teasing torso caresses and her stilted rendition of jazz technique. Explicit but comical masturbatory actions are mixed into the quirky yet touching duet and Perry displays the rather desperate, randy old psychoanalyst most convincingly.

The imaginative landscapes that Perry and Hay-Gordon delve into for their inspiration is utterly impressive and is equally obvious in the short films which, although a little long, capture the talent of this arty, inquisitive pair.

No less engaging but very different are Lydia Cottrell and Sophie Unwin (70/30 Split). Their questioning in their first burlesque duet, their search for content and desire to try and live up to the audience’s expectations are both endearing and amusing. The women’s strong, idiosyncratic personalities and stage presences shine through, as they peel away the illusions about glamour, sex and titillation that the burlesque show promises. Plain black under- wear, walking boots, scruffy wigs and a few Grayson Perry style dresses deflate any high hopes. Instead they give us unadorned bodies, flabby bits, some nipple, an array of fantastic facial expressions and intense analytical reflection on process.

While their Pas de Duh delightfully sends up the showy, crowd pleasing conventions of cabaret, it’s not as funnily disarming or as honestly direct as Content part 1.There’s less of their personalities on display although the movement sequences are tightly crafted and slickly delivered.

Ideally suited for small studio spaces, both couples communicate effectively with intimate audiences and whatever you think of the content, their performances never fall short of exceptional.

Catch this bill at GOlive Extended on 23 & 29 May, 7.30pm & Sats 24, 31 May & 7 June, 9pm
Details of other evenings, including Peta Lily and special guests in our listings and on:

Josephine Leask is a lecturer in Cultural Studies on the BA (Hons) degree course at the London Studio Centre and London correspondent for The Dance Insider.

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