Naming your company something so un-searchable (believe me, I Googled) is a serious mark of intent, and beneath the grand Guignol make-up and extravagant costumes, Daniel Hay-Gordon (Thick) and Eleanor Perry (Tight) are creating something seriously good.
The trio of performances opens with a modernist ballet, Queen Have and Miss Haven’t, pitching Queen Victoria against Miss Havisham in a mourning battle. Beautifully framed on the small stage with hooped gowns (by Tim Spooner and Yolanda Sonnabend) just skirting the walls, and limbs missing each other by millimetres, the striking couple go full-blast for pathos. Hair wrenching and breast beating their way through complex choreography that is full of gesture and expression, they compete for the misery prize. Whose loss is greatest, the young widow or the jilted bride? Messiaen’s stirring Turangalila Symphony is a tremendous score for them to dance with and against. Lit with a rich colour palette that makes great use of shadows, it’s a thrilling ride.
The Princess and The Showgirl is another interpretation of the lives of others, which is Thick and Tight’s particular interest. This time it is Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe. The parallel journey of these two unfortunate females intercuts text from Marilyn’s films and interviews with Diana. Being cleansed of make-up and lavish wigs we can see how gloriously expressive the performers’ faces are. Hay-Gordon excels as Marilyn, expertly lip-synching lines from interviews and films, capturing her flashing eyes and wide smile. The piece is elegantly structured in the way it mixes film extracts, including a hilarious snogging scene from Some Like It Hot (Tony Curtis is played by Thom Shaw) and verbatim recordings. ‘Can you cook?’ a male voice asks Diana. ‘Well, I did a cookery course’ simpers Perry, mischievously doe-eyed. Prince Charles talks out of his arse, of course; Michael Jackson (a convincing Harry Alexander) moon-dances his eulogy to Diana, of course. There is drama and tension as the women are hounded and cornered, reflected in movement that switches from sensuous to rugged. Perry is all angles and pointed feet, maintaining dignity whilst dying inside. Hay-Gordon is a voluptuous siren gradually being diminished, arms swirling and back arching. A strident duet played against a film of a road tunnel may not be subtle but it works and how those eyes shine in the lights. Those pale blue eyes, as the final music track goes (thanks, Lou Reed). Daniel and Eleanor’s eyes look out at us – the characters have left the stage, the dancers remain, and that final look will definitely linger on.
It’s a bold and generous move to programme someone else’s solo into your own show to cover your costume change, but Radical Daughters, made by Thick and Tight on one of my all-time favourite dancers, Julie Cunningham, works beautifully as a counterpoint between Thick and Tight’s own performances. Cunningham’s poise and technical ability, a highlight of many Michael Clark Company works, is eloquently at play in this piece about Claude Cahun (whom she uncannily resembles) and Marcel Moore. Tim Spooner’s costume of long-johns with a pink behind and a pink palm is a bit of a puzzle, but Cunningham would be an electrifying presence on stage in a tea-towel. Look at that extension! Admire that line! There is emotion in every movement here, from a slithering, humped crawl across the floor to deft leaps and whip-fast turns, timed to the beat of Neu!’s propulsive score.
Once again the Marlborough Theatre demonstrates the might of its programming muscle (you can decide which muscle) and whilst it is a privilege to see work of this stature in such an intimate space, Thick and Tight could and should be filling bigger theatres. Original, inspired and fantastically talented, their star will surely rise.