IT’S OK, I’M DEALING WITH IT at the Wardrobe, Bristol

“Hi… how are you? Are you OK” … “I’m fine!” but perhaps you’re not.

Cristina MacKerron and Chess Dillon-Reams are the Hiccup project: a Brighton-based comedy dance/theatre duo. With this show their aim is to attack and expose the ‘keep calm and carry on’ culture of modern life. The show was created and evolved from their own personal experiences of coping with unpleasant events and situations; and from talking and listening to others about their vulnerabilities and how the bad stuff in life affects us all. In essence, it’s a series of skits and sketches around the theme. The two players appear, casually dressed and with bright red lipstick, before dancing, acting and cavorting on a mostly bare arena. They dip into their box of props at the back of the stage like children going to a toy cupboard before returning to play-out the stories and express their views beneath the fairy lights.

They are clearly both accomplished and sincere performers, and you get a sense of the real bond between the two throughout the piece. They tenderly help each other after each solo part; they frolic and writhe together, laughing and crying with each other. There are songs and there is dance; there is expressive physical theatre and some excellent clowning. The actors throw themselves around the stage, run, shout and pose before leaning on each other for physical and emotional support. You can sense that the crazy choreography and manic movements come from hours of improvisation, development and practice. At one point, with scant costume and underwear on their heads, they appear as the valiant knight and the fearless Viking in the ‘land of OK’… frightened of only one thing: ‘vulnerability’. There is plenty of energy in this performance, which often leaves them breathless and sweaty; from the robotically boogying start to skin-suit finish.

Each of the actors takes a part of the performance to recount a shocking and injurious accident which left them both without front teeth. These serious events seem to be the springboard idea for this comedic show, and the juxtaposition of the solemn and the funny mostly works well but at times their confessional, emotional accounts seem slightly incongruous and unnatural. ‘What do you do with all the s**t in your life?’ they ask… booze, chocolate, yoga? They run through the solutions that we’ve all tried. We get plenty of revelations, but you might be left short of conclusions; maybe we shouldn’t expect answers from theatre. At the end of the show the appreciative audience is asked to join in, but despite the clamorous applause most seem reluctant to stand and dance… maybe we’re not dealing with it after all.   ★★★★☆      Adrian Mantle   16th November 2017