‘George’ is an exciting and often funny devised piece of physical theatre, charting the progress of George to an important meeting with the mysterious J. The cast of three are 2016 graduates from East 15 Acting School.
The supporting blurb tells us the piece magnifies and ridicules normal situations. We begin with performer Barbara Blanka taking to the single chair on the stage, picking out individuals in the audience and giving them the game show treatment – What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you do? This already upsets the natural order of things in the theatre. Are we being challenged to try and make sense of a life when it’s defined only by these three things? It’s further undermined by the next question she asks: “How much do you earn?” This attempt at breaking a massive cultural taboo so early on in the piece is swiftly followed by the information that Blanka’s character is in fact the eponymous George.
Max Percy, whose concept the piece is, and Igor Smith start the physical side of things soon after their appearance, becoming part of the fabric of George’s life as he prepares to go to bed, dreams and then is woken to find a letter inviting him to a potentially life-changing meeting with ‘J’. A pre-meeting trip to the hairdressers cleverly expresses the anxiety we often feel in having such an intimate encounter with a relative stranger, culminating in George being more anxious to please the hairdresser than admit the obvious anguish his haircut is causing him. All this told through a mixture of movement, dance, music and occasional dialogue – in this scene consisting of the repeated phrase “small talk, small talk, small talk.”
Various other scenes follow, up to and including George’s off-stage meeting with the ever unseen J, with at times the music becoming (I assume deliberately) painfully loud. This involved most of the audience putting their fingers in their ears – not a usual reaction to theatre! The climax involves a pillow fight with feathers flying – something the front row will be picking out of their clothes for the next week!
This was a different theatrical experience from any other I’ve had, and I really enjoyed it. It was only a little over 30 minutes long but felt less and left me ready for more. The young cast in their colourful outfits are appealing and professional, obviously taking their craft seriously whilst remembering to keep it light and often funny for their audience. The only critical observation I’d make is that they might consider the branding implications of having a company name (CTNGCY) that requires spelling out if it’s spoken and an explanation in parenthesis (it’s pronounced contingency) when it’s written.