Brighton Fringe 2014
They’re aliens and their planet is in trouble. Their race is dying out from a horrible disease. So they sent out distress messages by radio and waited for a reply to reach them across the vastness of the Universe.
What they eventually got was Roxy Music … "Oh, Oh, can’t you see. Love is the drug for me" Obvious, really. That’s what they need – whatever this ‘love’ thing might be – so they’ve come to find out.
You could see right away that they were Aliens – no other couple (even in Brighton) go round in skin-tight body stockings – pale grey for her and an unforgettable mustard for him. Actually, we didn’t see them at first – their white cube space ship went through its landing sequence, lots of hissing and whooshing and fart noises (who knew that spaceships would fart ?) – and then a pair of tiny Barbie dolls were lowered down on rope in a surreal inversion of scale. A short blackout, and the couple themselves were standing in front of us.
Amalia Vitale has got the lithe body of a dancer or an acrobat, with big expressive eyes under a great spiky mop of black hair. She talked in a kind of eastern European accent, Russian perhaps, with long stresses on the vowel sounds. "Don’t worry, Human Beings. We’re not here to eat your brains. Or eat your kneecaps. Or suck on your spleen …"
"Or probe your bums" – Stephen Sobal is taller and heavier, with longish silver hair down over his ears and a five-o-clock shadow that was a few hours past five. His rather sad face made him look like he’d been left out in the shed overnight. He’s a quick-change artist too, diving off the stage and reappearing in seconds in costumes that would have taken most performers ages to put on.
The space at Upstairs at Three and Ten is quite small, and their delivery was loud and clear – which was just as well, because we had to listen through gales of laughter for the full forty-five minutes of this show. ‘Love Sick’ is a very physical production, with loads of frenetic movement and jumping around, but it’s the sheer inventiveness of their material that had us gasping. Vitale and Sobal are also very good at working an audience – there was a constant stream of little asides or knowing comments, and loads of eye contact.
They’re trying to find out what ‘love’ is, so they asked people in the street – we were played a bewildering variety of definitions as a sound track, which they tried to make sense of. (Well – what would your definition be? See, it isn’t easy!) Quite quickly, of course, they drifted onto the topic of Sex. Actually that’s not true – they didn’t drift at all, they plunged straight into it …
Dating advice didn’t help very much, so they turned to the animal kingdom, with nineteen-sixties nature documentaries. Vitale is an incredibly accomplished physical performer – the company specialise in clowning, too – and as she mimed to the sounds of an increasingly bizarre variety of animals and birds, she seemed to become each creature as we watched, awestruck. The bit where she’s a bird, getting fed, will stick in my mind for years …
The sound itself must get a mention. It’s completely integrated to this production – the music driving the action along, and the sound effects turning simple situations and movements into remarkably authentic-feeling experiences. There were a couple of tiny glitches with misplaced snatches of tracks, but it was the first night – and anyway they were immediately forgotten as the next surreal situation unfolded in front of us.
I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t go into detail about how we threw our sperm at the stage – or why – and certainly not about how I dropped mine on to the floor (call me Onan !) Just take it from me that this is the funniest and most creative material you’ll see in the Fringe. At the end, the staff had trouble getting rid of the audience, we were still sitting there talking with our neighbours about what we could hardly believe we’d just seen.
You’ll just have to go and experience the show for yourselves.