Directors and Choreographers: Daniel Hay-Gordon and Eleanor Perry
London International Mime Festival is back for its 46th year following its online COVID restricted programme in 2021. At Barbican’s Pit, the pandemic threatens to disrupt again, placing hurdles in front of the delightfully modern variety show Short & Sweet. However, the show goes ahead without too much lost.
Thick & Tight, the UK based dance theatre company created by the talented duo Eleanor Perry and Daniel Hay-Gordon, bring us this new work described as an ‘amuse-bouche platter’ of mime. The show has dance, drag, satire and creativity that charms. Packed with homages and innovate renderings of the famous and infamous; Sid Vicious, Grace Jones, Rasputin, Twiggy and Edith Sitwell all feature.
The opening act, ‘Two Moths in Real Time’ is at dissonance with the rest of the content. The work is a preview of the company’s collaboration with the Noh Reimagined Festival to respond to Japanese Noh and Kyogen. COVID prevented Perry from performing alongside Hay-Gordon on the night. The quality of Hay-Gordon’s solo performance is undeniably captivating and elevated. However, the tone and thematic concerns do not feel cohesive with the remainder of the show, with its idyllic natural meanderings rather than audacious social satire. Unfortunately, in general the first half lacks finesse and pace. The voiceover above lights out grows monotonous, and similarly, there is a repetition of movement without much forward progression.
However, the second half’s opening sets a high level of wit and energy that is matched until the finale. In ‘Curtain Lady’ Hay-Gordon’s fine-tuned lip syncing and charisma make for a snappy, hilarious impersonation. Harry Alexander follows, beguiling as Twiggy, with swift transitions from shy cockney lip syncing into compelling dance, in the gender-bending homage to the 60s icon. ‘Ra Ra Rasputin’, finally makes use of the disco ball, hanging above the otherwise bare staging, and luminates the room with fresh energy. Oxana Panchenko is outstanding as the legendary Russian lover. Their fusion of refined, immaculate dance together with the slapstick swinging plush penis clad with furry white testicles is riotous.
Hay-Gordon and Perry (via video from home), perform the finale – ‘Cage & Paige: We Could Go On and On.’ The duo has been known for their unlikely pairings, fitting Freud with Madonna, and Marylin Monroe with Princess Diana. This time, composer and philosopher John Cage is partnered with queen of the West End, Elaine Paige. Exploring time, memories, music and the meaningless joy of laughter, strands are pulled both specific and universal. The stage design, with mirrored spotlights on the back wall and below, provides fluidity and opportunity for physical humour as Perry’s size changes throughout. Most impressive is Hay-Gordon’s talent at seamlessly shifting between Paige’s goofy, iconic hysterics and Cage’s shuffling contemplativeness.
A tale of two halves best summarises Short & Sweet. Thankfully, it is the latter half that is quirky, humorous and polished, leaving you wanting more. Thick & Tight is an eclectic duo and a force to follow as they produce new work which provokes and surprises.
Runs until 29 January 2022