Wild disorder descends into playground politics during Stopgap Dance Company's 'Artificial Things' brought to the Edinburgh Fringe by the iF Platform. Review by Sophie Partridge
I was pleasantly surprised that, on the last day of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stopgap were still performing their Artificial Things, at Zoo Southside. In recent months, I’ve been impressed by the work of SG2 but somehow, never actually previously managed to see the main company’s work.
Danced and devised by Amy Butler, Laura Jones, Chris Pavia, Dave Toole and David Willdridge, gladly the mystique of performance wasn’t spoiled by some of the company waiting to change in the one accessible loo, as I queued for a wee. Laura actually had to do her hair in the lift as that was the only place with an accessible mirror! That’s the Fringe for you...
Things opened with performers seated / gathered around a bench, individually taking a stroll toward the audience, as if on a sea-side promenade. `Seated’ at the bench end, is a pair of (presumably male), trouser-suited, adult-size legs.
To the right, a glass box mounted on a pedestal, with the back-view of the top half of a figure visible. This figure when animated is revealed to be David Toole. Jumping around in the box, Dave mimes the lyrics to the first Cole Porter number, like a silent karaoke whilst the others rock back and forth to the rhythm, almost in a kind of homage. For myself, memories flooded back to my being in a similar box for the production of Unheimlich Spine with the David Glass Ensemble. What is it with glass boxes and smaller disabled performers? Probably best not to go there...
With Dave now `free’ and interacting with the rest, narrative wasn’t always clear as to who / what / why these characters were but with so much visual stimulation plus original and newly written songs featured, story wasn’t the priority.
Were the Mini Mouse-esque ears that Amy wore a tribute to Disney I wondered? The pre-show blurb told of the piece’s cinematic quality and this was evidenced with static poses being staged throughout as if for family photos. Possibly the more obviously choreographed pieces could have been a little tighter at times and with the space not being entirely blacked-out, perhaps ‘Things’ wasn’t in it’s ideal space. Chris’s character, who felt to me a Master of Ceremonies, himself ended up in the box and appeared to shoot himself. It seemed a shame to lose such a strong performer half way through the show.
Many highlights included the entrance of Henry Hoover, whizzing by on his own wheels and the`clearing-up’ becoming part of performance. Laura and David W. performed an amazing lift, with Laura remaining in her `chair over David. There was a unique moment of calm as Dave T. and Laura dueted out of their `chairs (the chairs themselves assembled and re-assembled continuously) upon floor.
To finale, all remaining performers ended back on the bench with Dave putting on the jacket matched with and sitting adjacent to but never actually quite `joining’, the suit trousered-legs, as if asking what is and isn’t, artificial?
Stopgap's 'Artificial Things' continues to tour through October for dates in Newbury, Munich and Barcelona. Please click on this link for details