The 2020 Isolympics is an entertaining and tongue-in-cheek mish-mash of dance, story and parody, reports Daisy Sanders.
The 2020 Isolympics, Not Sold Separately ·
Girls’ School, 24 January 24, 2021 ·
The 2020 Isolympics, presented by Not Sold Separately, is a strange, comedic mix of exaggerated dance moves, ridiculous outfits and larger-than-life characters.
This new dance-theatre work offers a sophisticated and fast mish-mash of movement with witty words – not quite dance, not quite a linear tale, perhaps a parody and surely not to be taken too literally. We meet five surreal Olympic-style athletes, each of whom is a millennial enduring isolation. One by one they share their own heroic tale of iso-survival, culminating in a wild ensemble finale.
Before the show begins, we file into our seats past two performers bantering by a trampoline – one is Ruth Paul (played by Kimberley Parkin) in fake-beard and shiny Adidas-suit, who is busily coaching Just Josie (Briannah Davis) – all long legs in a pink leotard, puffing with over-feigned focus. On stage, Sonja Bigenstrone (Mani Mae Gomes), Elena Smirnov (Emily Coles) and Dick Head (pronounced Heed, obviously, and played by Lilly King) lounge elegantly with possessed expressions. Then the lights go down and the eccentric opening tableau ticks into slow-motion action.
Director Olivia Hendry’s playful opening to the tongue-in-cheek dance theatre work ignites the room, inviting our curiosity about what may transpire… but it’s also a slightly awkward beginning.
Thankfully, slow motion and awkwardness disappear quickly, and the rest of the show is a rip-roaring rollercoaster that splashes its irreverent, stylised and highly energetic humour about. The audience are half-hooting with delight and adoration, half-stunned, wide eyed but grinning and willing to take the 45-minute ride.
The most memorable moment of The 2020 Isolympics was the simplest: a single figure bouncing repeatedly on a mini-trampoline while a recorded voice-over reveals her Covid-19 isolation inner-monologue: equal parts domestic, dark, hilarious and sad.
Performative commitment is impressive from the whole cast. It is utterly enjoyable to see the five dance artists use a range of extreme and nuanced facial expressions, revealing their growing command of both slapstick and clever, rambling monologues packed with in-jokes and social commentary.
The venue – the Girls’ School’s Home Economics room – imposes some limitations on the work. The small stage space means the performances slightly lack muscularity and clarity, though fast-joke images and serious dag-factor make up for this.
Voices are at times lost beneath Germaine Png’s lively sound design and a noisy air-conditioner, though Parkin’s vocal prowess stands out. A different seating arrangement and less lighting could perhaps allow the cast to perform in an even more conversational and energetically responsive way. This live-comedy quality seems essential to Hendry’s work and the cast are close to nailing it.
While Olympic parody ultimately overtakes any deep reflection on the year that was (leaving the potential of the work’s topic slightly untapped), the show is unapologetic and relentlessly silly. If Hendry and friends aim to amuse and have a mighty good time, they succeed.
Pictured top: Dance artists, from left, Briannah Davis, Kimberly Parkin and Mani-Mae Gomes in ‘The 2020 Isolympics’. Photo: Hannah Laurent
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