Reviewed – 1st February 2019
“It’s hard to resist the fun clearly being had here, but there is perhaps a risk of too much fun at the expense of structure and ultimately purpose”
Looking for a quiet night? This raucous performance from an ensemble of impossibly young talents won’t be what you might have in mind – but the psychedelic charms of The Dip are near irresistible.
The narrative, such as it is, is a trippy look at a night of sexual awakening. But plot is secondary here. The music is standout, with cast members seamlessly instrument-swapping (and, on the night I visited, Sophie Hammer on bass keeping a cool head when the sound tech wouldn’t play ball).
The sweetly amusing ‘kiss’ character at the start (Iulia Isar, who is consistently strong) is an indication of the playful surrealism that lies ahead. The night brings us a life-sized fish, aubergine-brandishing police and not one but two naked behinds. But anarchic comedy works best when we’re given shades of light and dark, and moments without frenzied physicality or high volume. These are pretty hard to come by here; not for nothing are we given earplugs at the start in case, we’re cheerfully told (by a staff member at this wonderfully welcoming venue), ‘we want to protect our hearing’. It’s hard to resist the fun clearly being had here, but there is perhaps a risk of too much fun at the expense of structure and ultimately purpose.
If the night is intended as a look at the complexities of figuring out sexuality and love, the tendency towards too much anarchy erodes the chance for (and fleeting moments of) real sincerity. But this is not to diminish the acting. Max Young does a great job as Nick, offering badly needed moments of levity, and Eifion Ap Cadno – on stage almost nonstop – is an effective protagonist and guide through the confusing parallel words (although it must be said: the on-stage kisses between our male leads lack chemistry. Buckle in, guys!). The cast in general are likeable, each with flashes of real warmth and humour.
Occasional forays into the realm of the totally absurd, such as an awkward stage dresser strewing bunting with a narrative of bizarre sound effects, feel like time lost that could have supported onward momentum. The risk of these detours is appearing self-indulgent; it’s easy to imagine how they must be side-splitting in the rehearsal room, but tough decisions need to be made about what can be justified in a final cut and some emotional integrity prioritised.
And some jokes naturally work better than others – the flatfish character is confused and a little overplayed, with some of the detail of his ‘backstory’ (as much as a giant fish can have one) being obscured with some missed diction (although Nick Mauldin is commendably entertaining throughout). One joke about the incestuous and downright abusive nature of the curious village our hero is stranded in is certainly a misfire, now more than ever, and has no place here.
Despite these occasional distractions, the rollercoaster seventy minute show sweeps the audience along with it and leaves us brushing party confetti from our shoulders. Infectious music and laugh out loud moments? To borrow a phrase from The Dip: baba ganoush!
Reviewed by Abi Davies
Photography by Lidia Crisafulli
The Space until 2nd February
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: