Tales, BAIT. Sweet Dukebox
The blandly ambiguous title of this piece of devised theatre from new company BAIT gave no clue as to what to expect. On entering the tiny theatre space we are greeted by the two performers, smiling and nodding, at once friendly and wincingly fake. The clowning-style performance continues as both strip off to their underwear, and stand, up close, personal and heroically unshaven on the stage without a hint of nerves or discomfort. This announces both their confidence and their willingness to be take risks, to be laughed at – yet also presents a challenge – these are performers who are happy to play with our discomfort.
The action continues using the structural device of a fairy-story, with each actress playing the heroine through skits such as a game show where she must find her fortune by completing impossible and absurd tasks (“Devour the knowledge in these books whilst devouring a doughnut!”); these are interwoven with apparently true and achingly embarrassing anecdotes of the actors’ own adolescent experiences – trousers falling down at the school disco, etc. With all the slapstick comedy and arch silliness however it’s difficult to know what is real and in earnest, and to connect emotionally with any of it; I felt the performers were very polished and comfortable with being funny, but shied away from the more honest and vulnerable aspects of their stories.
The point of the show – that modern maidens have a rather different path to tread than those in fairy stories – needs clarifying, and the show felt very much like a scratch of a scratch; nonetheless the rapport between the two performers was apparent and they worked seamlessly together to great comic effect; I have seldom seen two faces quite so perfect for clowning, and look forward to some genuinely hilarious – and, I hope, moving and challenging – work from them in the future. Tales may not have known quite what it was (or will be) – but BAIT are one to watch.