As I left the Basement’s loft theatre on Tuesday night, I tripped over a half-full plastic cup, sending its contents seeping across the wooden floor. The pale liquid – I’m pretty sure there was a glace cherry floating in it – spread outwards, engulfing small piles of glitter and gathering torn streamers in its progress. As it lapped at the edge of (and was ultimately soaked up by) a discarded piece of clothing, I couldn’t help but feel that I was stumbling out of what had been a wonderfully anarchic party.
If there’s not dancing at the revolution first graced the Basement’s stage last year – I didn’t see it then, but I’m so pleased I got to now. It’s a one-woman act created and initially performed by Julia Croft, who describes it perfectly as ‘a collage … a party … a poem’; this time round Virginia Frankovich takes the stage.
I was engrossed from the moment I sat down. This is a very physical play – both in its examination of bodies (specifically female ones) and in the contortions of the actor on stage – and Frankovich throws herself into every movement and manifestation with a hundred per cent conviction. It’s quite a feat, considering the clockwork timing required, and utterly compelling.
The play is indeed, as Croft claimed, a collage – it’s a riotous collision of cultural touchpoints, from Titanic to Psycho and Taylor Swift to the Ying Yang Twins, and it swings from moments of tear-inducing comedy to skin-crawling confrontation. Out of what at first seems like chaos – clothes are flying, music is booming, Frankovich is running around the theatre and in amongst the audience, pulling burgers and fans and god knows what else from her clothing – grows a layered examination what it is to be a woman in the western world. If there’s not dancing considers the extent to which the characteristics we perceive as ‘feminine’ are a series of performances, and suggests that these performances are born of our unconscious absorption of the mainstream-media ephemera that peppers our lives.
In a more general sense, this play is an examination of identity – what goes into making us who we are, and how much our identities are a performance. It’s also about layers – layers of representation, layers of identity, layers of meaning – and gradually strips those layers away.
If there’s not dancing isn’t positing new ideas, per se. What it does do – and very well – is present oft-discussed ideas in a clever and original way, situating them very deliberately in the personal. This is a play for the adventurous, those who want to be party to a piece of theatre that will both entertain and challenge them and, ultimately, leave them richer for having seen it.
by Kimberley Davis