Hoipolloi, Backwash

Review in Issue 8-4 | Winter 1996

All power to Hoipolloi! In Backwash the company pulled off the ultimate challenge and delivered a piece of devised theatre in which the joins were not visible. This could be because the show was developed from a play written by Sion Dale-Jones and therefore a water-tight structure was already in place. As a happy consequence, Hoipolloi were therefore able to achieve a satisfying unity of vision and approach. Jack, played by Dale-Jones, has been working in his ageing mother’s clapped-out seaside boarding house for donkey’s years. She sits on the kitchen stool and instils her motto – ‘politeness and efficiency’ – into her son like a mantra. He falls in love with the Swiss chambermaid (Stefanie Muller), wooing her with gifts of soap to eradicate the stench of fish which pervades the place. Their routine is disrupted when the old woman dies and Ed arrives to steal the girl’s heart and turn Jack’s simple life upside down. The ensuing comedy was offbeat and as gentle as a sea breeze. All three performers adeptly conjured a sense of place and mood and brought consummately observed physical characteristics to their roles. Although predominantly a text-based piece driven by a linear narrative, the company succeeded in enriching this winsome tale with disciplined and meticulously controlled physical performances. Add to this three sophisticated talents for comic performance and Hoipolloi easily recommended themselves as one of the highlights of the Visual Theatre Festival.

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TT 8-4
Issue 8-4
p. 21