Written for What’s On Stage
Dancing Brick’s founders Valentina Ceschi and Thomas Eccleshare are a pairing fast making a name for themselves for telling beautiful and quirky stories. Tonight marks the opening of their 2009 Edinburgh hit 6:0 How Heap and Pebble Took On The World and Won, now embarking on a UK Tour.
Inspired by Pippa Bailey at the 2008 Total Theatre Award nomination ceremony (“She said work in 2009 should be addressing climate change and sport!”) Heap and Pebble delightfully mixes cheeky genre references (“we’re really inspired by genres, larger than life things that come out of human plight; Sci-Fi and B-Movies, Musicals and Sports Epics”) with compelling characters that contagiously capture the audiences’ imagination. Eccleshare explains “I feel that theatre is very much an artform of the space and of the room that you’re in and so in a sense the environment. Theatre is a really good way of talking about our relationship with an environment.”
But this is not about impassioned ecological flag waving and, with the help of dramaturge Lu Kemp, the show has developed into “…a personal story that the audience can relate to…in Edinburgh we realised that what people really cared about were the characters.”
The tale of two ice skaters who are determined to compete even in a world with no ice could sound rather ‘Pixar’, but don’t let Dancing Brick’s whimsy fool you; Ceschi and Eccleshare have a healthy undercurrent of steely strength which is obvious from the start of our conversation. “We get a bit frustrated sometimes when we’ve been reviewed in the past and they’ve said ‘These guys are great but they should work with a director… but we feel quite strongly that we direct.” Ceschi agrees, “Of course we direct! It’s not stand up… there’s a decision to everything that we do.” Eccleshare takes up the mantle: “we would almost prefer them to say that Tom and Valentina directed it badly!” Often finishing each other’s sentences, it’s quite like listening to a relay race.
Formed in 2008 upon their graduation from the Lecoq School in Paris, they are keen to avoid easy ‘physical theatre’ or ‘Lecoq’ style classifications. As Ceschi is quick to point out, “even though you are taught the classical pedagogy of Jacques Lecoq, you do just sort of create what you want to create at the end.” Eccleshare continues, “what the audience may see as ‘Lecoq’ is that we definitely have the confidence to just put two bodies in space and let that relationship play out in a physical way… and we do mime techniques a bit.” You can almost hear Eccleshare grinning as Ceschi chides, “although I don’t really want to do that because we’re not very good at it!”
So what is ‘a Dancing Brick show’? “Valentina and I both aspire to make work that is beautiful and accessible and optimistic, but we really play with undermining that optimism and the fragility of that too. We want to do work that looks at contradictions and is fun to watch, theatre that we would really like to go too” Ceschi concludes decisively. “Our taste is very dominant.”
After long period of development it is clear they like this show. “Now we really feel comfortable and it’s a show we really care about” Ceschi says proudly as Eccleshare confides, “we keep feeling these echoes of them… like for example just a couple of weeks ago we were in a town shop and we found this ceramic model of two ice dancers and they couldn’t have looked more like us!” Ceschi laughs, “so it’s coming on tour with us!”
It seems that the spirited determination of Heap and Pebble is alive and well in Dancing Brick.