A sense of occasion
12 April 2017
The intimate shared moments of Celebration were what Nathan Dunn enjoyed, not the gags, which left him untickled
When Ben Kulvichit and Clara Potter-Sweet walked across the stage floor under the exposing harsh light, we judged them. Some may dispute such a statement – but deep down I believe it’s fair to say we casted clear opinions in our minds; just like we’d judge a preset or a costume. And it’s OK. Their matching outfits and casual demeaner to me suggested that they were the “geeky-but-we-don’t-care” type, which I find to be admirable.
Regardless of whether their impression was positive or negative upon the audience, any such judgement was abolished in a single step (of some bouncy choreography) as the piece truly commenced. Their unapologetically proud representations of themselves served them in good stead as they glided and stomped across the stage.
An audience loves passion and Emergency Chorus have it in abundance, and what makes their bold expression even more enjoyable was that this intense passion is also shared within each other. Their trance-like movement indicated that these were performers who were not afraid to call out across the audience, telling them exactly who they were.
And as they celebrated their identity, we celebrated with them. Because that’s what this piece was ultimately about. It’s a celebration of character, uniqueness and companionship.
There was something electric about the relationship we saw onstage. It was so visceral and raw in the purest of manners. Their supportive improvisation was a joy to watch as we discovered a side of the performers that was as proud in their partner as they were of themselves. The songs they sang felt like vows to one another and the acceptance of each other to take the stage for their own despite such strong attachment to one another was refreshing and exciting.
It was this attractive flavour of mutual respect and admiration that we see that made me begin to question how strong their “actual” relationship was. If these two individuals were not so close offstage, then their performance was nothing more than a performative masterclass. I don’t believe that was the case though. But that’s OK. The real deal is always better anyway, right?
However, for all this piece’s endearing charm and vibrant essence, there is something missing for me. Something I can’t quite place. And it’s sad. I feel like it may lie within the combination of the comedic and the more moving moments. When the duo danced and clung on to each other with mad passion I admired how the two resonated a sweet chord against each other.
Yet all this felt lost and meaningless when we were introduced to things such as a questionable story involving Donald Trump in a club at 3:45am. I was hooked to the people onstage who shared their spirits with us, but I questioned the inclusion of politics for a validly silly segment.
I acknowledge this was a personal piece and that politics is personal but it just felt odd and cheap. You’ll have to look hard to find any Trump supporters this side of the pond; particularly in a world of theatre seemingly dominated by liberals. Therefore, mocking and placing Trump in a comedic scenario was a guaranteed giggle – and by making it universal it no longer remained personal to the performer of the section, Ben. He went from brass individuality to pleasing the crowd for a few giggles. It turned the sweet sour.
Although I questioned many of the comedy moments, the audience seemed to cling onto them the most. I was an admirer of the more poignant moments where I found myself feeling dizzily emotional, yet the audience were gripped by their eccentric and strange humour.
Before I knew it, I was the strange one in the room for not laughing. Guffaws and howls were aplenty, accompanying the simple clowning and Mighty Boosh-like narratives that cascaded the big screen.
So, what does that say? It is undeniable that Ben and Clara had (almost) all the room in the palm of their hands, but despite the influence of the laughs of those around me, I found my face stern and stuck. I simply wasn’t tickled.
Maybe it’s just personal taste. Maybe it’s impossible to make something so personal and original appeal to everyone in every aspect. And if this is the case, where does this leave Celebration? It seemed to have found its audience here at the NSDF but I am intrigued by its potential livelihood elsewhere with alternative audiences. Would it be as effective? Would other audiences have time for its frayed structure or quirky demonstrations of talent?
And with this in mind, I have only this left to say to Ben and Clara: thank you for the invitation to your party. Your jokes may not have made me laugh and it may not have been the best party I’ve ever been to, but it was certainly one of the truest and richest – and for that I won’t forget it.
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Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca