Protein Dance’s new show offers its audiences the best of two worlds. It’s a refreshing piece of physical theatre about life in a pub that actually happens in a pub, thus deftly blurring the boundaries between watching and socialising. It even begins with a quiz for the punters, with a bottle of cheap red as the prize.
What follows is a patchwork of overlapping episodes acted out in front of, behind and around the audience. Tasha Gilmore bustles in, loud and brassy, laden with shopping bags and yabbering into her mobile. She shows us her Kylie costume and practises her dirty dancing, gearing up for karaoke. By contrast, Esther Weisskopf is brittle with Germanic angst, striking tense, angular poses as lanky Robin Dingemans aims darts at the board she holds. Luca Silvestrini (who choreographed <em>Publife</em> with Bettina Strickler) is a swishy barman and compere, whose salsa lesson is upstaged by a rival class in Brazilian dance by compact and bullish Jean Abreu.
flirting, fighting, headbanging, stand-up, strip acts and general piss-artistry
These are just some of an assortment of scenes that includes flirting, fighting, headbanging, stand-up, strip acts and general piss-artistry. Throughout you sense the pervasive influence of modern media, in the use of hits by Abba and Madonna, Saturday Night Fever on the video and football on the telly. The life portrayed becomes itself a kind of karaoke, with pop and television providing a pre-recorded backing and script for the characters to act out in real time. This merging of live and recorded action reaches its hilarious peak when Gilmore and Abreu act out a pub scene from EastEnders that is simultaneously playing on TV.
Publife is a varied, well-paced piece, capable of generating an explosive energy as the performers leap-frog and careen in the confined, crowded space, with a seemingly careless abandon that is in fact tautly choreographed. Though there are darker moments in the piece, these are treated with a light touch, and it is humour and high spirits that come through most clearly.