The Dirty 30 II: Electric pay-per-view.
October 23-24. Next shows December 11-12
Producer: Degenerate Fox
The Cast: Laura Killeen, Gabrielle MacPherson, Sergio Maggiolo, Liberty Martin, Graham Self, Henry Thompson
Instead of loud applause and cheers, “you were spectacularly fabulous,” pops up on the side of the screen from an online viewer, as the imaginary curtain goes down on the Degenerate Fox theatre’s online adaptation to the times we’re in.
For all the technical glitches, it’s hard to disagree. In any case, we have every chance: we’re all free to air our comments throughout as the six winsome foxes – who in normal times would perform their “mash-up” of audience favourites, with a few world premieres thrown in, at the Rosemary Branch pub theatre in north London – are brought to us from their separate homes to our separate homes.
Logged in on Facebook, the audience controls the running order by selecting numbers from “a menu” of 30 plays to be performed in an hour – or thereabouts. As in the theatre, we are truly involved in the action. At one point, the background music was louder than the performers. All the audience had to do was post a message and it was fixed.
It’s a format with massive potential. Much as the self-styled “neo-futurist” cast, all playing themselves, is missing “the Rosie,” it proves theatre is not dead. Drawing on a centuries-old tradition of somehow finding a way, even in pandemic times, theatre can still provide opportunity for the young and enterprising.
The quality of the plays varies, but who cares, when each one is only two minutes long. It’s also “spectacularly fabulous” how much emotion gets crammed into the two-minute slots.
The sorrow of lockdown as “a time to be kind of alive” is well and truly voiced – from impossible yoga positions and talking to your houseplants to what the pub probably feels like these days and the conversations that take place there.
“How are you?”
“I’m overall really good”
“Are you working?”
The foxes don’t fight shy of politics to instant audience acclaim. “Puppet love,” quips a commentator as the double whammy of Trump and COVID-19 is articulated by shadow puppets that include the menacing outline of the coronavirus and an accompanying script: “When there is so much you can see in plain sight, you have to wonder what’s lurking in the shadows.”
The loudest cri de coeur is from Sergio. His “Home sick VI: The Return” gives new significance to the concept. He came to London from Peru, full of hope and then the tragedy of BREXIT happened. Again, to audience acclaim, he tells us London is now home regardless and he’s staying to fight from within.
In any case, the politics is terrible almost everywhere. A nearly naked Sergio, in an agile performance involving a towel that just about covers his “Fragile Masculinity”, speaks for “all Brazilians against Jair Bolsonaro”.
If the politics is getting you down, there are plenty of menu choices to remind us of the all-but forgotten joy of shared recognition of innocent silliness.
“Bedtime: a non-literal recreation of” captures the atmosphere of the dormitory or the campsite when no-one will go to sleep, except of course, everyone is keeping everyone else awake from a separate home.
It would be a fine finale, but it was not quite the audience’s last choice. We still had “A message from our collective conscience” on the night I logged in, full of confessions of lapsed humanity – was the trip to Cyprus a reasonable decision and what about the joint, illicitly smoked, but then again “if you can’t fall apart in the middle of a pandemic, then when exactly can you?”
For anyone who wants to take up that point, there is an online chat after the show and more to follow in December to bring fabulous cheer to the dark winter nights.
Barbara Lewis © 2020.