Brighton Fringe 2015
On the 43rd floor of a trading building, Christian, Tom and Alex are unto something. This is their last chance, a final attempt to follow their dream: a stack of cash, a pile of coke, Hugo Boss underwear worn in Barbados, Instagram pictures of #Moet & Chandon and #girls in satin dresses and #vivalasvegas. But Our Lady of this Building is unhappy. And hungry. Time is running out, dreams have to be chased and profiteroles need to be bought. Something extraordinary is coming…
Easier to describe than to understand, – The Ice Cream Van’s dark, comic piece begins with a twisted tableau of bodies and a lot of slurping. Somehow we automatically assume it’s a slurping of blood. When they finally unwind, the four creatures that move towards the audience are both intrinsically comical and fundamentally frightening.
It’s this duality that continues throughout the performance that holds the whole thing together rather than the plot. I say the plot, but I lost it early on, and it was never quite given back to me. I knew from the programme that this was an absurdist satire, that the vampires lurching towards me were standing in for bankers and responsible for a blood crisis through their own greed and avarice. It was Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale and a Grimm’s Fairy tale revised by Lecoq after Lehman’s, that is a theatre of dark clowning, gesture and absurdity set in a failing bank. Blood stands in well for money, but that was as far as I got with any detailed comprehension.
Some of the scenes are rich, pure comedy, partly because each vampiric character is powerfully individualised in costume, gesture and expression. Their bulky shoulders, hunched up almost to their ears gave them a leering savage mien accentuated by the attention to facial expression. When they disappear behind a white stage cloth screen, their heads bobbing down lower and lower in steeped unison it is not only a perfectly presented physical joke as a whole but each smiles or grimaces with his or her own particular trademark. They all have very strong stage presence at all times.
The white screen doubles up for some effective shadow puppetry and the story of Johnny who loses his mummy in this city of ruthless vampires is funny and interesting, if unintelligible in terms of plot. At other times the mentions of Ebola and homosexuals hint at some nastier exploitation which they are responsible for, but doesn’t explain why or how.
Other scenes have meanings that are easier to access – the frantic phone calling and screen antics of market traders as the market collapses. A narrative of the bleeding of the populace, a little drop at a time, is effectively told and displayed. Little parts of this scene are perfectly expressed, the intermediary vampire riding in between the masters and the populace, whose draining is gradual and unnoticed until they have nothing left – or at least that is how I read it – there’s plenty of room for interpretation.
But overall it is each character, each complex of gesture, costume and expression and voice (I forget to mention the howls and cries that punctuate the performance), that holds your attention, frightens you and makes you laugh.