Battersea Arts Centre, London
Brian Jones. Jimi Hendrix. Amy Winehouse. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Kurt Cobain. Peter McMaster? No, he didn’t join the “27 Club” but he celebrates the risks and excesses of the age that took so many legends. With co-performer Nick Anderson, they relay personal milestones from birth through the near future amongst displays of risk taking, celebration and sensual interaction with the audience and each other. This encroaching on personal space and copious amounts of dust creates a boundary-less, intimate world with surprising additions of pain and violence – an excellent depiction of the living life on the edge.
McMaster and Anderson’s start wearing skeleton morph suits and masks creates an otherworldly, animalistic effect. A joyful distribution of copious amounts of grey dust cleverly evokes death, subsequent cremation and the Judeo-Christian idea of “from dust you came and to dust you will return”. This fine, grey powder lingers, soon kicked up into the air and covering both the performers (who are shortly out of their morph suits) and the audience. This isn’t a clean show, but neither most people’s mid-20s. As glorious and invincible that age might be, death is inevitable and occasionally, not very far away. It’s a powerful metaphor.
The two performers have nothing on under their morph suits. The totally exposed bodies are vulnerable in their nudity, but simultaneously powerful as the two grapple and slam into each other. Sweaty bits of flesh slap into each other – this isn’t staged fighting, this is two blokes properly going for it. Trust falls become more and more risky even though repetitive and highly choreographed; the potential for harm is thrilling and visceral.
Two long scrolls document the 27 years of the performers’ lives and a read from intermittently. The lists of years and key events start out banal, but as they age, they become wonderfully anecdotal. The teen years are particularly amusing and expressed with a quiet nostalgia. The bodies on stage, what with all the flesh already exposed, seem to grow the more the audience learns about them.
The violence brings an accompanying suspense, but the vulnerability so blatantly on show is the defining feature of 27. THe dust that’s kicked up into the air creates a harsh environment, but is a communal experience shared by actors and audience. Like the realities of feeling young and invincible, 27 is a wonderful, messy celebration of the age where we are not bound by societal expectations.
27 ran through 12 May.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.
Edited with BlogPad Pro