Pros: Witty, thoughtful explorations of themes like loneliness, artistic meaning and sex.
Cons: The intentions behind the pieces are at times obscure.
Part of the GOlive Dance and Performance Festival at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, it took me a little while to understand the rationale behind pairing these acts by Thick and Tight (Daniel Hay-Gordon and Eleanor Perry) and 70/30 Split (Lydia Cottrell and Sophie Unwin). As the evening progressed with the two companies alternating material in both halves of the show, it became clearer how elements from the two very different acts could be viewed as a cohesive whole.
Opening with Edith and Schubert Have a Cup of Tea, Thick and Tight staged three dance movements to music by Bartok, Tampa Red, Peggy Lee and, naturally, Schubert. Over the background of snippets from John Freeman’s 1959 Face to Face interview with Edith Sitwell, Perry performs a facially expressive dance dressed in a style that reminded me of the influential early modern dancer Ruth St Denis. At first Hay-Gordon confines himself to sitting quietly with a notepad, emulating Freeman conducting the interview, but the ballet slippers he wears hint at his impending physical involvement. When this slightly-built, beardy man in a grubby undershirt and corduroy trousers finally gets out of his chair to perform one of the most naturally expressive contemporary dances I’ve ever seen, he completely shatters my expectations. Hay-Gordon’s dancing honestly took my breath away. I may not fully have understood Edith and Schubert, but it was very beautiful to watch.
70/30 Split follow this with Content Part 1, an exploration of the structural elements of a traditional burlesque act like the entrance and the strut. The focus is on what philosophically distinguishes a burlesque act from, say, just walking on stage and taking off your clothes in an irritable manner. Though some of these analytical elements felt a bit obscure, there’s also some very funny riffing on the artistic development process. Particularly on the mark is the bit on the earnest focus of workshopping a new show. Performing in hiking boots and some seriously tatty wigs, Cottrell and Unwin’s exploration of theatrical material is thought-provoking and hilarious.
In the second half, Thick and Tight return with a series of short films. My favourite of these was What Are You Doing in There?, which is about a couple texting one another sweet nothings whilst in the loo. They also perform Freud & Madonna’s Last Shag, in which a phallic Freud (Perry) and a plastic-wrapped Madonna (Hay-Gordon) cavort about the stage exploring the gendered elements of Freudian theory. This had me and several others howling with laughter. Perry’s dancing in particularly is energetic and graceful.
70/30 Split closed the evening with Pas de Duh, a more traditional cabaret-style act with high kicks, high heels, and pencil-thin moustaches. But this piece too has thoughtful elements, with an increasingly uncomfortable competition between the two performers over a bouquet of flowers. Culminating in a belly-jiggling exploration of Rubens-esque feminine charms set to Edith Piaf’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (no, I am not going to explain that in more detail), it is as insightful as it is witty.
In sum, this double act is a fun, expressively danced and refreshingly visceral alternative to what you’ll find at most above-a-pub theatres at the moment.
Producers: Thick and Tight; 70/30 Split
Box Office: 0844 477 1000
Booking Link: http://www.lionandunicorntheatre.com/thickandtight7030split.php
Booking Until: 7 June 2014