Drop Dead Gorgeous @ VAULT Festival by the SAME SAME Collective

01.02.2020

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a darkly comic exploration of femininity and appetite by four women from the UK, India and Taiwan. The performance lies somewhere between a dance and performance art, with no dialogue whatsoever, as a table bearing fruit forms the centre piece of the action. In that sense Drop Dead Gorgeous is a visual discussion of femininity and its conflict with appetite, presenting a form of hunger I can certainly relate to.

The piece as a satire...

The piece successfully presents a comedic criticism of the universal tropes of femininity through both action and staging. Beginning with just the spotlight lit table, in a brief moment where the lights go out, the women hidden underneath the table appeared seemingly from nowhere. This felt indicative of the idea of women being ‘seen but not heard’ as they appear noiselessly, a trope which was continued throughout the piece, broken only by the occasional graceful sigh performed in unison. The set design was mostly beautiful, a pure white table cloth laid with colourful fruit, stood on pure white flooring. This perfection was mirrored in the women both in costume design, as they stood in their neat matching floral dresses and in accuracy of movement as their dance was timed to perfection. They appeared serene, controlled and delicate to the point of being comedic. Gradually they incorporated the fruit, beginning by gracefully selecting a grape each and including it in the routine. However, as the interaction with the fruit increased the unison of their movement began to break, first by selecting differing fruits, before comedically stuffing their faces until finally the piece digressed into a kind of animalistic feeding ground. They hoarded fruit, stole from one another and devoured all in sight. In this sense food acts as a means through which women cannot appear delicate and faultless.

The Set and how it supported the critique

The piece was performed in-the-round with audiences on all sides amplifying the sense in which the women were on show. Even when they did enact their appetitive desires, the majority of this was done under the long dangling cloth served as a mask to their eating. By the time they divulged into pure animalistic behaviour the table had visually broken into quarters, providing a symbolism of their societal mask slipping, revealing expectations of female bodies as idealistic.

If I had to moan…
My only real complaint was that it was so short. I would’ve loved for them to have taken this further.

The Same Same Collective are ones to watch for multi-cultural political performance art. I found Drop Dead Gorgeous a laugh out loud piece; current and thought provoking it is in tune with works such as ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’. To catch them again they will be back at the London Vault festival on the 15th of February.

Rosa @ The Courtyard Theatre

Rosa is a one woman show about a woman (named Rosa) who fixates on her ability to control time throughout the day, causing her to fear sleep. The script follows her neurotic daily routine in a convincing but also bizarre manner.

Things I liked about this piece…

Committed characterisation- I found Carlota Arencibia a thoroughly committed actress, never slipping in her characterisation even during the comedic moments. The piece had already started from the moment the audience entered, which was a clever way of amplifying the realism of the piece. We really had walked into the room of a mad woman. Movement was a key and clever part of Carlota’s performance, mostly to embody the time she was fixated on, as well as to physicalise Rosa’s desire for control. This added to the thoroughness of the characterisation as well as the comedy of the piece. Most of the comedy, however, came from the quirks of Rosa’s daily routine such as her morning wee which was done on stage into a plant pot, using a water pouch tucked into her knickers. Other absurd moments included her morning cup of coffee, which was poured over her face, her exercises, which included putting match sticks in her eyes, as well as the period she spends rubbing her clit, a small pillow attached to her knickers. All these elements made for a convincing and funny portrayal of her neurotic character but also were evidence of what an incredible piece of writing Rosa is.

Set Design- This is the most fully realised set I’ve seen in a small scale production this year. It was made up of white painted wooden panelling which formed the three walls to the room. The white fresh paint was reminiscent of a mental asylum but the wood complicated this, making it feel more like a painter and decorator set or even a heavenly garden. The idea of it being a painter and decorator set was heightened by the roll-on paint brush which stood propped up on the wall throughout the piece, as well as the white linen flooring. This not-quite-finished state of the set nicely amplifies the sense of being stuck in time, much like Rosa. The set also mirrored her desire for balance, with props tending to come in equal numbers and there being only one stand out colour, red. The only sense of imbalance came from the roll on brush which looked as though it could have been left accidentally, cleverly highlighting the scene’s artificiality, much like her own sense of control.

If I had to moan…

This is a naturally difficult piece to critique due to its originality. However, I think to not lose sight of diction would be a good point to make, as parts of the performance were lost in the zig zagging of content. While the fast paced speech was obviously a deliberate characterisation choice, I think too much was missed at times.

The silent Mrs Coffman, the person Rosa speaks to throughout, was an unclear concept. Who is she? Do we know? Should we care? I found myself straddling the ideas that: Mrs Coffman was imaginary, Mrs Coffman was a psychiatrist, Mrs Coffman is whoever the audience want her to be. I think whether or not Mrs Coffman is supposed to be anything particular or not, it needs to be stated clearer as I found my attempt to grasp it distracting and spent half the piece worrying I’d missed the answer.

Finally, I would’ve liked to have seen Carlota go further in Rosa’s moments of fear, to elevate the contrast with the mostly lighthearted tone of the production.

Overall, this was an incredibly well written, performed and managed piece which I would highly recommend for anyone seeking something slightly unconventional. I wish this production the best of luck going forward and I have no doubt they will do well. Carlota is a real force.

Stream @The Drayton Arms Theatre

09. 04. 19

Tonight I saw the first of what is going to be a week long run of the production ‘Stream’, which is divided into two short plays split by an interval. Despite being in the same production these two plays are highly contrasting in style and theme as my review will show.

Salmon

If I had to sum up Salmon in a word it would be, claustrophobic- a description which can only probably be fully understood after watching the production. Everything in this play overlaps: speech, space, meaning- making the small upstairs theatre at The Drayton Arms pub a very apt space for this production. The play begins as what appears to be a comment on the mundanity of life as we hear the story of a young Scottish man, from a town where nothing much happens whose dog recently died. However, as the play unfolds it shows itself to be a powerful watch, rich in meaning. Some of the best aspects of this production was undoubtedly the writing- language and especially imagery is used very originally throughout. I also found the actors Scottish accents thoroughly convincing, their timing well executed and commitment to the characters strong. I think if I were to critique this production at all I’d suggest slowing it down in places, the fast pace generally adds to the claustrophobia nicely, however in places speech gets lost and we are left wanting a pause. I also think the penultimate scene with the main guy and girl laid together- probably my favourite scene from the whole production- would have made for a more poignant close as it offered a welcome stillness. However, these are simply points for the company to think about as they head off to The Edinburgh Fringe Fest where I have no doubt they will do well. The production is running for the remainder of the week in The Drayton Arms, London and if you are heading to Edinburgh and you are looking for a thought -provoking watch, definitely give these guys a watch.

My rating 7/10


Mom Bob

Mom Bob is simply a great feminist watch, acting as commentary on womanhood as well as tapping into the relatable mundanity of human experience. It’s simplicity, one woman (and some wooden ducks) on stage relaying her feelings about a recent incident in her biological daughter’s life, makes it a profound watch. It covered everything from the extreme side of a woman’s experience- domestic abuse- to the everyday naggings of societal expectations; I found it thoroughly relatable. It is an incredibly well written, as well as, well performed piece by Jane Hancock, the one woman’ed band who both wrote and performed her piece. I was gripped from the second the protagonist began speaking and her monologue succeeded in making me feel every spectrum of emotion from laughter to watery eyes. If this piece was anything to go by, I would recommend seeing another of Jane Hancock’s plays, she’s a force to be reckoned with.

My rating 8/10