Edinburgh Fringe 2009
6.0: How Heap and Pebble Took On The World And Won
Venue: Pleasance King Dome
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
In the world of Heap and Pebble, being the best at ice dancing is all that matters. The problem is that their very vehicle, the ice, is melting due to global warming. But this doesn’t deter them, they simply move on to a wooden floor! This wonderfully curious idea is the premise of this piece and it is presented beautifully by the two actors.
The world is warming up. Two ice dancers are forced to perform on a wooden floor: They are Heap and Pebble. Eccentric and endearing, they have a beautiful on stage chemistry that makes them totally watchable. This also easily allows them to perform some scenes in silence for minutes on end. They manage a light, quirky tone with an underlying dread at the reality of their situation.
The two actors and writers Thomas Eccleshare (Heap) and Valentina Ceschi (Pebble) are lovely. Handsome Heap does all the talking and the shy and beautiful Pebble the smiling. They present themselves to the audience in surreal bursts of enthusiasm and quiet grace; the timing of their delivery and the way they have structured the oddly connecting scenes: Silent, observational ones and scenes when they address the audience are held together by their lovable demeanour. The audience are drawn into the character’s plight because the threat is ours as well – and we aren’t passive observers – the fourth wall is broken several times and audience members invited on stage.
This is certainly a devised production and very much to its credit. It is an excellent example of unconventionally structured storytelling. It wouldn’t work on paper, not only because there is so little dialogue but because it is about physical mood and style that couldn’t be conveyed in a text. It doesn’t rely on any theatrical conventions, in fact it throws them out and starts afresh. It even makes text based theatre look archaic and dull in comparison.
Its structure is based on the juxtaposition of a mega and a micro-theme: Global Warming and the desperate need of two people. it starts off with the audience laughing at two clownish characters, and if this had continued it would have stayed as rather odd, physical slapstick theatre, and we wouldn’t have taken the message (of global warming) seriously. What raises it above other shows of its nature is its clarity in defining a threat so abstractedly.
Increasing throughout, the threatening sense of a melting world is conveyed through poignant mime scenes and wonderful sound effects. One, for example, is an image of plastic chairs sinking to the bottom of the sea performed with the actor’s backs turned to us which alludes to their, and our, drowning and therefore our extinction because of rising sea levels. Radio addresses of them on the ice are merged with news of the melting ice. They desperately try to be positive about their plight but the reality is ever present.
This gets five stars because of its innovation in style, it strikes just the right note between humour and pathos. This is a highly original and offbeat way to warn us, through art, of the reality of global warming. It hails to the power of theatre as a message carrier, and deserves all the praise it gets.