Let’s start with a small confession: I love puns. With the English graduate’s typical, geeky fervour for language, I can’t resist a cheeky double meaning, a playful subversion of signifiers. And the same could be said of Figs in Wigs. In their new show, the pun – that most maligned of jokes – becomes a tool not just for provoking laughs but for addressing the pervasive sexism of modern society. With funny dances.
The title itself is perhaps the best pun of the show, hinting at once at the objectification of women, Figs in Wigs’ objection to that, and the series of “wee objects” that litter the piece in the form of tiny props. After entertainingly explaining these multiple meanings, the company’s female performers then proceed, through a series of hilarious skits, to try and fail to tackle something bigger. Following in the theatrical vocabulary of companies like Forced Entertainment, the performance of failure is at the heart of their work, as is the desire to prod at the conventions in which they exist. Trash gets reused and dodgy dance routines become a staple of the humour.
The power of the piece lies in its reappropriation and subversion of the forces that quietly belittle and objectify women. The pun becomes a silly but potent demonstration of how words can be seized upon and repurposed, illustrated most forcefully in a slideshow that ticks off the various different terms used to describe and insult women, while the striptease is reclaimed in a series of deliberately unsexy disrobings, as the performers peel away layer after like like Russian dolls. Even failure, a constant fear that glares out at women from glossy advertising spreads and airbrushed celebrity photographs, is turned around into something strangely beautiful. But the show is also utterly, brilliantly bonkers, revelling in a colourful whirlwind of chaos and proudly celebrating the joy of sheer silliness.
As props mount upon props – tiny cheese graters, a miniscule stool, diminutive wine glasses – the performers repeatedly insist, with climbing agitation, that this is not a show about small things. It’s a light but defiant protest against the minimising of everyday sexism, insisting that this is not an insignificant issue. It’s fine to laugh about it, but we also need to take notice. And laughter itself becomes a protest of sorts, asserting the value of small and seemingly throwaway things by recycling them into humour, as well as firmly defying any suggestions that women can’t do comedy. Whatever else they might achieve or not achieve, Figs in Wigs are bloody funny.