Before the transfer to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Sweet Venues and Dragon Literature this week presented a special preview of So What If I Dance?, and Out Of the Lens, a short play and a short play with songs.
As we entered the performance space there was a rather striking actress already on stage, this role of ‘the dancer’ was played by Chipo Kureya. Dressed in a revealing leather outfit and extremely high shoes, she moved seductively around the stage to the smooth music playing in the background. Kureya made eye contact with many of the people in the audience, she had a very strong command of the stage and exuded confidence.
So What If I Dance? is a one-handed play that tells the story of a lap dancer and stripper, a very intelligent, thoughtful, comedic and at times emotional monologue. Written by David Kingsmill and directed by Sarah Redmond this play is not only highly entertaining but extremely thought provoking. Kingsmill got his inspiration for this play whilst he was at a photography exhibition at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011.The photography exhibition in question was championed by a group of exotic dancers, the aim was to showcase the dancers as human beings and to break down the prejudice and common stereotypes that people associate with exotic dancers. This is exactly what the play does, the writing is extremely honest, direct and makes no apologies, combined with a confident and respectful performance from Kureya, and you will find yourself listening to every word.
There are many subjects raised in this short performance, including feminism, power, femininity, sexuality, morality, representation and prejudice. Whilst these subjects are touched upon, the audience is left to ponder on what they have seen and heard, there are no definitive answers given. Much like the writing, Kureya’s performance and character takes a really interesting journey with great moments of comedy and also true moments of great sadness. Whether you have any experience or knowledge of exotic dancers or not, you will find this a highly entertaining piece of theatre and may well even be forced to question your own opinions on any of the subject matter raised.
The next theatrical offering was Out Of the Lens, Book and Lyrics by David Kingsmill, Music by David Kingsmill and Nicholas Chave, Musical Direction by Nicholas Chave and Director Sarah Redmond. Out Of the Lens is a play with songs with just two characters, Joseph (Guy Woolf) an uninspired photographer and Ryan (Andrew Walker) a gay lad who works in a tea shop. The two characters have a chance meeting and embark on a journey of self-discovery, each helping the other one learn a lot of important lessons about life and themselves. This play is highly entertaining and very funny with a nice balance of some serious moments dropped in here and there. Compared to the first play, the messages and subject matter is highlighted in a much more subtle and simplistic manner.
The beauty of this play lies in its simplicity, the staging is very minimal as is the set and costumes, added to this is the seamless transition from spoken dialogue to song, making it a very easy piece of theatre to watch. Kingsmill’s use of comedy and storytelling in his song lyrics are very reminiscent of Victoria Wood’s style of song writing, they are simple songs but highly effective in telling and linking the story. The performances given by Walker and Woolf are memorable and totally in sync yet individual and precise in their execution of the different characters. It is the differences in the two characters that highlight the main focus of the story, it has clearly been written and directed this way but the clarity and precision in the individual and dual performances are golden. For such a short play the journey that the characters take do not seem to be rushed or forced at all. The subject matter of the play is something that most people will be able to identify with, self-discovery and the forming of new relationships.
Both plays, while heavily different in their delivery and content, share many similarities. The themes of prejudice, stereotyping, misrepresentation and motives are at the core of both plays. This is a very interesting and clever theatrical offering from Kingsmill, both plays, separately and combined, cater for a wide audience range. If you are heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year then be sure to get yourself tickets for these unique pieces of theatre.
Review by Haydn James
From an invite-only preview production at the Hippodrome Casino’s Matcham Room.
So What If I Dance?
Venue 18 – Sweet Grassmarket – International 3
August 1-17 (not 3, 6, 13), 20:00 (40 mins)
£7 (conc £6); (1, 2 Previews £5)
Out Of The Lens
Venue 18 – Sweet Grassmarket – International 2
August 11-24 (not 14, 21), 16:00 (45 mins)
£8 (conc £6); (11, 12 Previews £7 (conc £5))
Friday 1st August 2014