Top trump

12 April 2017

And then God got lost in IKEA. And it was good. Alex Milledge praises Celebration


If there’s dancing… if there’s singing… if there’s gold face paint... you know it’s a party. And it’s a fucking great party.

It starts with dancing and several promises written on post-it notes, some of which are not kept. It’s all a game which we’re invited to watch and it puts me in mind of a TV show where we’re the studio audience, except we definitely don’t need big black and white placards telling us when to laugh!

Celebration is excellently polished and perfected. Every section of dancing is masterfully choreographed with this nostalgic 90’s vibe and Ben and Clara, in their simple jeans and t-shirts, rock the nostalgia. Chemistry and trust comes through so clearly in Celebration. When Ben said he was looking forward to a standing ovation I think the audience were more than happy to play the game they were inviting us to join in with, and at the end we give him what he asked for, the audience feeling the pair’s obvious connection like a love letter read aloud.

Imagery is one of the things that shines through for me in this work. Rita in a red dress on a yellow background with her half blind dog appear in front of you with Clara’s repeated description of the painting and as they re-enact it. A huge glass town hall where the people watch the people from each side of the glass. God wandering round IKEA with his shopping trolley. Spinning in circles with Donald Trump… It’s intensely provocative and enticing to watch and imagine.

What’s fascinating for me is the responses of others that I’ve spoken to about “getting it”. In some ways, this performance uses no illusion. They don’t coddle us, as they promised, and they provide a piece of theatrical spectacle that can be taken as something that you don’t have to “get” but that can simply be experienced. It can be felt viscerally and intellectually, yes, but also just enjoyed as entertainment, an antidote, perhaps, to the difficult subjects that we have experienced in other productions this week. It’s exciting! Something new is around each corner and the humour flows effortlessly.

With humour we’re reminded of current events, of the future that’s to come for all of us and that an excellently funny and thought provoking piece of theatre doesn’t need to be a dialogue of character and fiction. It can be real people, with real experiences, playing games, completing tasks and expressing their personalities though the freedom of throwing their bodies round on stage.

To me it is clearly influenced by the work of Forced Entertainment, a similar task based company with personal influence seeping though, and I would be excited to see how this company, Emergency Chorus, proceed from here as theatre makers.

What I would suggest is allowing it to stew. In a few days think about it again, what images stick and explore why that is. Allow yourself to dip your hands in and get covered in glitter. Go and start another celebration and think of Donald Trump in his beautiful red dress.


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