Remote Control Theatre Project HaHa

Remote Control Theatre: Project HaHa

Yellow bird, oh so pretty, perches on a wooden bench, then clambers amongst the audience. She’s sweet and smiley, wearing a 1950s style cotton sundress with a pretty print of lemons and leaves. She clambers over the steeply tiered seats of Summerhall’s Demonstration Room, whispering in people’s ears. I have the best seat in the house. I know because a little bird told me. To get to my seat I had to scramble over a body slumped on the floor – another young woman, this one in a smart black skirt and jacket, wearing one patent leather high-heeled shoe. A pool of vomit is next to her mouth. Also in the space is a monitor playing a video; images of a woman with long platinum hair diving onto a sofa. There’s a fourth presence, a voice-over (also female): ‘I saw you in the supermarket choosing cheese..’ says the voice, then rather more surreally ‘I saw you eating digestives on the beach with Patsy Cline…’

Yellow bird girl, still smiling, clambers down onto the stage, and tries to perch somewhere there. She perches on stools, on the TV monitor, in mid-air, on the body prone on the floor. A swing! There’s a swing! She perches on that, swinging and smiling, a caged bird on a swing. The body on the floor splutters into life, gagging and spitting. She staggers up, moves around in a lop-sided jiggle, one shoe off and one shoe on. She moves into a rigorous gestural choreography, then into an intense duet of slaps and falls and catches with bird girl. And that’s just the start! The next hour is exhausting and exhaustive for both audience and performers. There’s no let up, and these young women have no fear. Far from shying away from danger, they confront it. Sexually provocative posture and posturing is played with, exploited, and undermined. Lying on their fronts, Lolita-like in novelty shades, licking a giant ice lolly, hair blown in the fake wind of a cheap electric fan, they bask in the glory of the gaze coming their way,  then return the gaze defiantly. Images of winsome women, wanton women, women losing it, women putting up with it through gritted teeth, women out of control, women abused and abusing – it’s all here, presented using a fabulous language of physical, visual and verbal absurdism. They laugh! They cry! They dance! Perhaps they’ll peck each other to death, who knows?

Hysterically funny in the darkest possible way. Nice and nasty. Visceral, juddering theatre. If you want a comfortable night out, this isn’t for you. If you want to be shaken and stirred, amused and disturbed in equal measures, go.

Project HaHa runs at Summerhall throughout August, everyday except Monday.

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Dorothy Max Prior

About Dorothy Max Prior

Dorothy Max Prior is the editor of Total Theatre Magazine, and is also a performer, writer, dramaturg and choreographer/director working in theatre, dance, installation and outdoor arts. Much of her work is sited in public spaces or in venues other than regular theatres. She also writes essays and stories, some of which are published and some of which languish in bottom drawers – and she teaches drama, dance and creative non-fiction writing.