The best thing about some shows is simply the fact that they happened – the encounters they facilitated, the process they engendered. That’s not to say that the actual outcome of Made in China and the Unicorn theatre’s collaboration is less valuable. Double Double Act is a clever show with plenty of puns, tongue-in-cheek quips, and good old slapstick routines. It aims to cater for all tastes and ages – to ‘win the audience over’ as it repeatedly confesses.
The main draw to this show, for those who are not part of the regular Unicorn audience, will be Christopher Brett Bailey, the writer and performer of This is How We Die fame. That particular surprise hit was all about using language as music, finding beauty in apparent nonsense. So it was an inspired move on the part of the children’s theatre to bring him on board. Working together with Made in China’s Jessica Latowicki and Tim Cowbury (all three are incidentally also MA graduates from Goldsmith’s), and a number of other collaborators, Brett Bailey gets to weave his penchant for wordplay into something a lot more layered theatrically. Elements of music hall, stand up, sketch comedy and even circus come together in this undertaking aimed at exploring what children and adults respectively might find funny or disgusting, and where the cross-overs are. One could imagine the makers might have set out to explore through this show some of their own wildest childhood fantasies.
As the title indicates, it is framed literally as a double double act – Brett Bailey and Latowicki as an adult double act are coupled with a child double act, played on alternate days by either Seb Booth and Nayana Crowe or Caspian Tarafdar and Caitlin Finley. As the title also indicates, this is often a meta-show commenting quite overtly on all its proceedings to arrive at the creators’ own definition of existentialism, delivered on this occasion by a hiccupping Booth: ‘Existentialism is when we, the actors, leave the stage in a single file and Jess farts directly into my mouth because that’s the height I am’. This may or may not be to your taste, but taste as it happens is the underlying central theme of Double Double Act as it [spoiler alert] has the protagonists first make (act 1), then drink (act 2) and eventually puke (act 3) a slimy/magic/green potion. As I said, this is a clever show with a clear, though understated cause and effect dramaturgy (Dominique Collet).
The kids in the audience delight in its humour and grossness, and so do the adults, though often at different times. The spaces in between raise questions and often leave something to be desired, but what is more than evident is that this particular project creates learning and relationships in its process of making that are truly transformative.
Double Double Act is on at the Unicorn Theatre until 9 July 2017. Click here for more details.