Adelaide Fringe 2013
I encourage adults with tween aged kids along to see this show very much. It provides an entertaining insight into the human condition without being dark in any way, always amusing and at times quite emotionally moving. Youth groups would gain a lot from it, and those shy people who feel like the only one who ever drops a brick would mine a great deal of strength from this very clever show.
Three actors sit side by side on white boxes, Will Tredinnick, Shem Purdy and Lou McDonald all start with simple facial quirks. Their eyebrows the same colour as their shirts. It’s a slightly surreal world we’re looking at.
The set is a complex white box with dribbles of colour here and there, no doors in or out, lots of small objects and small glowing spheres rest against the wall. It could be the famous Peter Brook ’empty space,’ it may be a room in a dream world but whatever it is looks impressive in it’s simplicity. The three characters seem unsettled. The state of disquiet grows little by little and the walls seem to be closing in around each of them. This is awkward silence. Where to look? How to settle? How to seem comfortable, but approachable. They each shift their gaze to the other, but divert away from direct eye contact. It’s a familiar human condition.
Eventually these three make attempts at communicating directly, but it’s difficult. For the audience it is amusing; so many possibilities of what is going on in each of their minds. It is at once a very familiar situation. Shy folk; trying to introduce themselves to other people, hoping to seem cool calm and collected but to the outside eye it is obvious each of them have massive inner demons. After their introductions are painfully made they go through a string of motions that display the many facets of feeling inadequate and acting it out subconsciously. There’s not a lot of dialogue, most of these keen observations play out on a physical level… and as it often happens in life, once the three begin to feel at ease in the small group, they bugger everything up by trying to compare opinions about of all things, art!
They peruse the objects on the walls and offer their suggestions, at times it is crystal clear that they have no idea at all what they’re saying, but then there are moments of clarity. Problem is that whenever the clarity enters the equation it seems to somehow be a few seconds late. It misses the bus as it were. This is well defined and very funny to watch.
The physicality of the work is particularly well executed by Shem Purdy who towers over the other two performers and uses his vastness really well. Each of the performers have been driven by director Romy Clugston to use their best assets, and the ensemble quality is palpable.
In one sequence Lou McDonald is stuck in a small box; her physical work with Will Tredinnick is marvellously dangerous to watch. I wondered if he would rip the nose off her face. The two of them battle it out huffing and groping like a pair of cartoon characters until Purdy steps in and tests his strength. There is a great deal of passion in the show, not sexual tension, although there are moments when each mistakes the other for the partner of the third. This is the passion of performance. It’s not brassy, but it is showy. By this I mean you can see the development that has taken place in their process; and you can sense the gentle touch of an astute director keeping the ridiculousness contained by degrees.
Sticky Feet even manages to develop a story. The three go through tremendous struggles at one point when outside elements force them to step up and act spontaneously in an effort to survive. It really is well done. Almost as if Pina Bausch were an influence.
The great irony of Sticky Feet is its simplicity. It starts and ends almost invisibly, and the fifty or so minutes that passes has so much light and shade it’s almost like watching a complete ‘well made play,’ and I suppose this is an insight into the style of training these recent graduates have had. They certainly hit the nail on the head, along with hitting each other on the head (a lot) without there being any sense of nasty violence or deeply negative human emotion. Yet it is very human.
It’s a quiet triumph for anyone and everyone who has ever felt these moments of complete inadequacy and social clumsiness. When you realise that something you just said deeply hurt someone but they’re avoiding letting you in on their pain; but it’s not angsty like Bausch, it’s light and cartoonish like a Looney Tune. Yet through it all each character remains dignified and accessible.
I would encourage adults with tween aged kids along to see this show very much. It provides an entertaining insight into the human condition without being dark in any way, always amusing and at times quite emotionally moving. Youth groups would gain a lot from it, and those shy people who feel like the only one who ever drops a brick would mine a great deal of strength from this very clever show.
These performers and their team have come a long way to offer a lot, but there’re only a few performances so my advice is get in quick.