GOlive Dance and Performance Festival has descended on The Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town in a glorious explosion of baguettes, fake facial hair, prosthetic penises, real boobs, a bouquet of Barbies, and a cake baked by Hitler.
The evening – a patchwork double bill, with two performance groups interspersed across two halves – kicked off with Daniel Hay-Gordon and Eleanor Perry in the form of Thick and Tight. Now, I cannot comment on the “thick” bit, but “tight” they most certainly were, as they threw their funky shapes against the backdrop of a vintage boudoir lamp. Tight dance moves. Mouthing the lyrics to a tight tune. Some kind of tightly sexual power-play. Beyond that, though, I failed to grasp any wider symbolism, and the realisation gradually dawned (as it so often does) that I had no idea what was going on, and looked to my companion for clarification. His two-word answer: physical theatre.
There’s something delightfully impregnable about physical theatre. Even the name itself – surely all theatre is physical? – is enough to set the WTF-ometer clanging in alarm. Being one of those philistines who believes that art in all its manifold guises should be accessible to anyone, irrespective of whether or not they know their Hamlet from their Houdini, it transpired that I spent the show’s initial fifteen minutes abusing firstly myself, with a mental cattle-prod, and secondly my companion, in a quest for answers. It is a testament to said companion’s otherworldly patience that he refrained from silencing me once and for all with an umbrella or a pint glass. Because I didn’t get it. Lord knows I tried, but now matter how fervently my brows furrowed, I just did not get it, and every time something happened on stage to remind me that I didn’t get it, I made sure he knew about it.
Things then took a turn for the better, because the sight of a woman putting a tea cosy on her head and staring into the middle-distance as she undulates like Mystic Meg – THAT’S something I can get behind, and fortunately, it featured as the duo’s first instalment came to a close. You know what I can get behind even more? Two “burlesque terrorists” (Lydia Cottrell and Sophie Unwin, of 70/30 Split) wobbling their own behinds in time to a hip hop tune. These boundlessly brazen and bodacious babes poked fun at the world of showbiz via a calculated combination of slapstick, satire, and straight-up sex (read: the mutual exposing of bosoms). They had the audience not only in the palm of their hands, but in stitches. I cannot commend them highly enough on their choice array of bargain-bin wigs and their baleful, woebegone eyes. “You were expecting something better”, they dead-panned, as they slumped there in their hiking boots. “No!”, I wanted to shout. “This is just perfect! Please don’t change a thing!”
The guy and gal from Thick and Tight ended the evening with a surprisingly brilliant bang in a skit called Adolf Hitler and Kath Kidston bake a cake. Does what it says on the tin – with the added topical bonus of Hay-Gordon’s Hitler parodying Nigel Farage and Britain’s current tumour of nationalism, and Perry’s rendering of Kath Kidston an almighty pointed finger at the world of beef-headed consumerism. It is here that the aforementioned bouquet of Barbies made an appearance – a vision so thick and tight that I will take it with me to the grave.
GOlive performances are happening at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town until mid-June. Tickets and further information can be found here.