I tasted Sprint, and it’s playful.

Written for http://exeuntmagazine.com

The fourteenth Sprint festival at Camden People’s Theatre kicks off with a taster evening which embodies the festival’s lively and playful essence – and while I’d be reluctant to call it a theme, an abundance of childish delight runs through the work in this opening showcase.

The evening begins with Mamoru Iriguchi’s Projector/Conjector. Iriguchi has a projector on his head, while his eponymous heroine has a TV on hers. Projector/Conjector is a low-fi/high tech love story where boy meets girl in a world of deceptively makeshift illustrations of rockets, ponds, ducks, pieces of coral and even the piercing of a still beating heart. Clad in crumpled forensic whites our performers combine po-faced seriousness and physical prowess (some of the crouches they hold would make a yoga instructor jealous) with a wonderfully silly premise and an odd poignancy as Projector creates his own reality and Conjector captures it.

Greg McLaren

The immensely likeable Francesca Millican-Slater presents I Promise To Swim The Channel (or the story of how I might); a lovely piece of personal passion on stage. With poetic fluidity and a healthy dose of science and history, Millican-Slater takes us through each stage of her training so far, cheerfully highlighting each exhausting obstacle. Armed only with some goose fat, bowls of water and a whistle, this self-deprecating adventurer is as brave as the first channel swimmer Captain Matthew Webb and as witty as one of the most famous, David Walliams. At the end, in a brilliantly simple act of complicity, you can formalise your belief in Millican-Slater by signing an agreement stating you believe that she will achieve her mission – and I’m sure that she will.

Clad in a distinctive Chinese bomber jacket, Greg McLaren (above) combines a palpable sense of bombast with a trembling vulnerability.  Doris Day Can Fuck Off he tells us, or rather, as this is a one-man opera, he sings it to us, in a pleasantly melodic voice. A bundle of contradictions, McLaren’s silly endeavour to sing everything he would usually speak (a task he’s been accomplishing for the last few weeks) seems to have left a rather dark mark on him and his wonderfully funny mash-ups of befuddled traffic wardens and passers-by are tinged with the loneliness of an outsider.

No such darkness infects The Balloon Gardener, a children’s circus act combining tremendous skill with a touch of idiocy. Set against a hip-wiggling soundtrack of 60s TV music and performed with boundless energy, Danny the Wild Balloon-Tamer performs a series of tricks with the tacky flare of a children’s party entertainer. He manipulates brightly coloured latex shapes into a piece of artistic horticulture that won’t fail to put a smile on your face.

Patchwork

Physical prowess and a sense of mindless fun merge into a hundred-words-a-minute with The Honourable Society of Faster Craftswomen’s (right) mega-monologue Patchwork. This spoken word extravaganza has a throbbing punk backing-track and a thrusting energy that leaves the audience breathless. Guileless (but one suspects highly-skilled) animations fill the screen behind the performer. Enthroned on a high-backed chair and clad in a wild-thing suit with requisite ears, this is one cool chick.

This high-octane and razor sharp performance make for an exhausting but exhilarating end to an evening that’s often been punctuated with giggles. Perhaps the most resounding feeling is one of warmth, a sense of welcoming towards all this strange and wonderful work. It is sensation that may well embolden and encourage even those alarmed by the prospect of performance art.

Sprint runs at CPT from the 1st to the 27th March 2011. For a full line-up of events, visit: Camden People’s Theatre

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