at Warwick Arts Centre, Thursday 24th February 2011
Sometimes I marvel at how lucky I am to live right on the doorstep of Warwick Arts Centre. Granted, a lot of the shows shown in the venue can be a little hit and miss and many are utterly forgettable, but once in a while we are treated to a theatrical feast. Stationary Excess and Pedestrian are two wonderfully whimsical one-man shows, which, when played back-to-back, illuminate one another as if they are in competition to create the most absurd monologue.
Stationary Excess, created by Tim Cowbury and Jessica Latowicki, comprises of one woman (Latowicki) riding an exercise bike while recounting her love for Superman (although his name is never used). As she recounts her monologue and pedals, we watch as she gets ready for a night out, downs a bottle of champagne and scoffs an entire packet of biscuits. Mechanical noises and sounds blur the line between theatre and live art, but the intricacies and honesty of the text stop this from becoming a pretentious piece about the nature of performance. The way in which we are slowly fed facts about Superman himself gives us something to follow and allows the audience to subconsciously participate in what is happening.
But what makes this piece stand out is Latowicki’s performance, which is extraordinary. She throws herself fully into the role and genuinely lives the text. Even after gorging herself with chocolate digestives she doesn’t stop for breath, ploughing on regardless and allowing us to fully believe in her story. It is perhaps one of the bravest performances I’ve ever seen.
Pedestrian follows in a similar vain as we watch Tom Wainwright take us through a ‘normal’ day in a nightmare-ish, drugged-up world in which human-sized goldfish and an encounter with Harold Pinter are not out of place. Although it is an imagined life, it is at the same time a hilarious indictment on the state of our society; the street which Tom walks down is lines with countless Costa Coffees, Starbucks and Gaps, and people are eloquently split into four distinct groups: “sweatybacks”, “wankers”, “fuckwits” and “cunts”.
Wainwright’s script is wonderfully nuanced, and is saturated with glorious phrases such as “my bottom fell out” which he clearly savours. His performance is also strong, as each character is clearly defined and he makes us want to believe in his tale. This is also helped by the sound and video design by Simon Wainwright (no relation), which creates an ethereal background to the central performance and sets the piece firmly in the ‘fanciful’ category.
It seems peculiar that these two shows were once shown at separate times in separate venues, for they complement each other perfectly. They prove that one-man shows don’t have to be boring and still, and that a little humour never goes amiss when we are investing all our energies in one person. They also show the magic that can occur when a great script is married with a brilliant performance; indeed these are two of the best performances you’ll see this side of summer.