Edinburgh Fringe 2011
This is Class Stage Productions second of Kirsty Eyre’s back to back comedies at this venue. Using the same five cast members who have just played the five testosterone fuelled footballers in “On the Bench”, Dances for Wolves is set in a seedy lap bar. Five jaded strippers compete to win the ultimate prize, 1 million pounds and the attentions of a wealthy Sheikh. Through song, dance and blatant suggestion they explain how they ended up in the profession, feel about the punters and why they should be the one to win the prize.
Clad in corset, fishnets and vertiginous stilettos, it’s just another day at the office for these strippers as they bump and grind to obligatory pulse racing music. Absentmindedly caressing their individual poles, they voice their inner thoughts out aloud. It is the hilariously mindless trivia of the interminably bored. Clearly not remotely stimulated by anything that’s going on in the room they relieve their boredom by pointing out each creep and pervert they have had to deal with and their individual tastes. Its gruesome talk, at times almost medical, but they sing about it with same indifference as disgust.
Each character has a story. There’s Dianne, the mother with 8 children whose been stripping for as long as she can remember. Merry, the posh bird with the double barrelled name, trying to clear her student loan (her father must never find out!). Paella, a school teacher that can’t afford to live on her meagre salary, and finally, Pacha and Melanoma. These last two characters played, respectively, by Kelly Russell and Donna Marsh are a feisty Essex pair, and they don’t come any rougher than this. The banter between them can only be described as vicious camaraderie. The spotting of the Sheik brings about a feeble injection of enthusiasm in their dancing and each performs a short video piece selling their best attributes to win the prize.
Kirsty Eyre’s strength is her understanding of characterisation. This is black comedy, and all of the roles are believable with the characters armed with hilarious background stories and eye watering descriptions of physical encounters with the seedy punters. Their raunchy adaption of Etta James’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You”is spat out with such vitriol that it turns the anthem on its head. Balancing out Eyre’s comic observations and putting the message across in the right way are five clearly talented performers who appear to be enjoying every minute of it.
It’s a minimal set and the club atmosphere is easily replicated with spinning lights, glittery curtains and pounding dance music. The direction keeps the girls constantly moving whilst always tantalising the audience. There are clever touches, e.g. if anyone stopped to talk directly to the audience, the rest of the cast energetically gyrate in the background which sustains the pace, and the only way to get respite from your stilettos is to find a way to incorporate them in the act which is done expertly by Marika Vine.
I watched both of Eyre’s plays tonight to see the transformation that these young women make from masculine to feminine. I belly laughed lots. If you get the chance to see the two plays together, do.