by Made in China, Christopher Brett Bailey, Ira Brand.
Battersea Arts Centre (Members’ Bar) Lavender Hill SW11 5TN
28 Oct-2 Nov 2013.
Runs 1hr 5min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7223 2223.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 October.
Satiric show catches the right tone.
Attitudes of performers to audiences have always been double-edged. “We that live to please must please to live” has a sore point in its “must”. The three contestants in Gym Party, grinning widely as they repeat their desire to gain audience approval, have insecurity behind their upfrontery.
They need to win repeated audience votes to avoid round-by-round humiliation, sequences of self and mutual laceration for the failed victors in each stage of their competition’s already humiliating games – as if stuffing mouths to overflowing with marshmallows, or being voted on for looks isn’t enough.
Yet, if they win, the gratification’s immense. Never mind what you’ve done, or what (if anything) you’ve won – you’ve won. The power and the standing-out, being famous, a momentarily manufactured celeb in a glory as brief as it is shallow, brings a sufficient gratification. In a world of autograph-hunters, being the one asked for their autograph or making the cameras flash is what counts.
Aptly played by their namesakes, for these stage figures have no substance of their own, the two female and one male figure, their names androgynously shortened, are feminised for public consumption by their vibrant-coloured wigs. Like all contestants these days, they arrive knowing the rules, never thinking about, let alone criticising, them. They have no existence outside the box.
Even their interplay is governed by wishing to follow the routines they know so well, following an amplified voice’s instructions. By accident or design, the voice gave some misinformation, leading Made in China company member Jess Latowcki to whisper a correction. If it was an accident, it gave a fortuitous opportunity to hear a real human response amid the prepackaged personalities of the characters.
Of course no character comments on the most obvious contrivance. Scoring for the rounds is weighted; whoever wins round three gets more points than anyone winning the other two combined. No matter; for the contestants it’s all about being declared a winner; for those watching it’s about the humiliation, not only of the losers round-by-round, but of all those taking part in – and watching – such unholy rituals.
Performers: Jess Latowicki, Christopher Brett Bailey, Ira Brand.
Designer/Costume: Clementine Keith-Roche.
Lighting: Sean Gleason.