The End of Dance by Yann Allsopp
The premise of The End of Dance is straightforward enough – in fictional Britain, a bill totaling the length of one sentence has been passed that bans all dance. But when you think a little more, all the questions start popping up – what exactly IS considered dance? Can we dance in nightclubs? Can we do a little jig while walking the dog?
Local MPs Colin (Yann Allsopp), Nigella (Rebecca Kenny) and Liz (Sophie Winter) are here to help. Themselves unhappy with the bill, the MPs attempt to seek understanding from the ground level, and at the same time, exact change step by step to override the bill and make dance legal again. It’s easy to think that you haven’t gotten your money’s worth here, after all, audiences paid to attend and watch…well, dancing. And when that’s outlawed, the MPs have to find clever ways to tiptoe around it while fighting the good fight.
More than anything, The End of Dance ends up becoming an exercise in exploring movement. From picketing in hilarious slo-mo, to having to explain each individual step of a dance one would do if allowed to, the show ends up becoming oddly metaphysical, and a reflection on the very nature of dance itself. Passing commentary on terrible bills in general that should never have been passed, in addition to asking questions about rights and whether it is the elite, the skilled or the masses that deserve to dance, The End of Dance is all about protesting within means, fighting for a cause while attempting to stay legal, and realizing that one’s nature can never truly be pinned down and killed.
The MPs themselves are somewhat ridiculous. Visibly poised and controlled, their best attempts to resist dancing are foiled by their inner desires, with Liz breaking out into a wild show of emotion near the start when the MPs attempt to demonstrate the new Dos and Don’ts of dancing. Colin begins skipping furiously while in the middle of reciting a mantra, recalling his family’s strong ties to dance and uses the skipping to expend the energy instead of dancing, while Nigella, the only one in heels, hides behind a gigantic poppy that spans her entire body and performs a flapper-inspired dance obscured by her costume. No one can resist the draw to get physical and move their body, not even when the spirit of Margaret Thatcher appears in the form of a voiceover and attempts to foil their plans.
When all their peaceful plans fail, there is only one thing that the MPs have left that they haven’t tried, and that is to dance of course, completely free and with wild abandon. The End of Dance manages to finally deliver what audiences came in for with its spectacular final act, where the MPs shed their tight, grey suits for colourful leotards as they fly across the stage performing various dance moves from ballet to hip-hop, sometimes serious, sometimes laugh out loud funny. Although not necessarily polished or perfected, the idea behind the choreography is obvious, in that there is a joy and inevitability in dance, that it is the purest form of expression and possibly the most effective means of communication and protest where words fail to convince the authorities.
All in all, The End of Dance is a celebration of self-expression and how it cannot be held back. It serves as a commentary on the nature of protest, and how one must take more extreme measures when normal ones won’t do. And above all, The End of Dance is relevant while also being rather funny, with one of the most unique choreographers you can hope to see in a ‘dance’ performance. Stay till the end for a surprise from Yann – you’ll be left whooping and cheering for these MPs who just can’t stop the beat.
The Long Trick by Marietta Kirkbride in Association with Bucket Club
Gemma Arrowsmith: Earthling
Placing herself as an alien life form doing a presentation about homo sapiens, Arrowsmith sets up her show to portray her spectrum of character sketches in between slides. Arrowsmith’s characters are surprisingly thoughtful, often requiring a certain level of intelligence to fully comprehend the joke, from death’s ferryman Charon as a chatty Uber driver, to shameless YouTube makeup channel celebrities plugging their products. But the bottom line is, they’re mostly very funny. Although not always laugh out loud, they leave plenty of food for thought, and will at least provoke a giggle. Arrowsmith’s sketch about a proposed new iTV reality show titled Win Your Parent’s Life struck a particularly strong chord, as she used it to bring up issues of inflation and debt the current generation lives with. Arrowsmith’s jokes are almost always relevant, and hit the nail right on the head when it comes to issues we’re concerned with.
Earthling even manages to hit that highly coveted spot much comedy rarely hopes to do – the emotional twang, felt when Arrowsmith plays a sequence showing audiences what people answered in a survey about what they would have sent to space in the Voyager, celebrating the 40th anniversary since it was launched. Some answers are guffaw worthy, while others form an immediate connection and mutual agreement. One particularly noteworthy segment involves Arrowsmith playing a soundclip of Ann Druyan speaking about her husband, famed astronomer Carl Sagan, who fell in love with her over a phone call.
Gemma Arrowsmith: Earthling plays at the Studio (The Vaults) till 26 Feb. Tickets available here. To keep up with Gemma, follow her on Twitter @Mmaarrow, and check out her YouTube channel. You can also fill out her survey and possibly get featured in her show HERE