Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

“Genre-defying. Glorious Rejection of Traditional Form”

At Volcano Theatre

The Populars- Volcano , Summerhall- the Library Gallery , August 17, 2019
At Volcano Theatre by The Populars- Volcano Volcano has had good Fringes in previous years and does the same in 2019.

“Haunting Elliptical Chamber Piece” was the heading for their Fringe production five years ago (below 7th August 2014). “Seagulls” two years back was a production out on its own (below 13th August 2017).

Volcano in 2019 is going down nicely.

From the List

“Volcano Theatre insist on a dynamic dramaturgy that challenges existing ways of making theatre. Their previous visit to the Fringe radically reworked Chekhov's Seagulls with a tough, physical style, and a tank of water that transformed their venue into a watery dreamscape. For 2019, director Paul Davies wants to get political.

“One of four frenetic dancers stops briefly to grab an audience member's hands, look them square in the eyes and say: 'Are you ready?' They're not given time to answer before their hands are flung across the dancer's sweaty face, onto his stubbly, sweaty neck and down onto his soaked chest. They're thrust aside before they can process what's happened.

“The Populars manages to gather its audience of standoffish Brits into all sorts of random interaction with strangers, and best is that its actors don't make interactive moments feel contrived or like forced fun. To get a prudish audience to engage with one another is a great thing by all accounts, and Davies' show certainly has limitless energy.

“More than just isolated moments, nearly three quarters of the show comprises the cast dancing wildly and erratically to nostalgic pop and rock songs in the space, contorting their bodies in ways that almost become gruesome, but are addictive to watch all the same. The pace and spectacle of the show are thrilling enough to make you forget you're standing the whole time and haven't been offered a seat."

From the Wee Review

“Do you like dancing?” a member of the cast asks. If you’ve found way into The Populars, a ballsy piece of immersive theatre, let’s hope so. Mixing the discomfort of a school disco with the awkwardness of current UK politics, this is not a show for fans of storylines or of personal space. It revels in the discomfort it creates in the room, whilst also offering a weirdly unifying experience for those taking part.

"Set in a club with a handful of revellers, initially not much happens – apart from a lot of sweaty crotch thrusting to Jump Around by House of Pain, as startled audience members frantically avoid eye contact. But then the lights come up and the cast, still dancing, begin to speak: a mixture of scripted and improvised dialogue pondering Brexit and a divided British Isles.

“There’s a lot of nervous laughter throughout, alongside some genuinely funny moments – particularly when the performers are playfully exploring national stereotypes. By the end, for better or worse, we had bonded as only those who have been intimidated by an upbeat Fleetwood Mac dance routine can. There was a real sense of camaraderie as we left.

“It’s not for the faint-hearted, and wannabe participants might want to think about a pre-show whisky or four. But beneath the gyrating hips and loose dialogue, it’s a piece that puts the audience at its heart, and a guaranteed experience of the type that defines the Fringe. The Populars are populists and will take you with them one way or another… leaving you happily dancing with complete strangers.”

From Broadway Baby

“The stage is non-existent, you’re stood beneath the pseudo-stage lights and it seems as though you might be a part of the performance… So, what exactly is this?

“The Populars is a genre-defying and glorious rejection of traditional form. Boldly creating its own rules, it looks to a divided future and questions whether or not we actually like what we see. Working to break down our own personal boundaries, we are confronted with the chance to form opinions without preconception. From Brexit to popularity contests, blue passports to Stevie Nicks: we become one and the same, likened through our differences and separated by our similarities.

“The piece takes place in a brightly-lit room. Four charismatic performers move their way around us, bringing us into the spotlight and into the dance routine. It certainly makes for an uncomfortable prologue (and some quickly make their way for the door), but isn’t this exactly what theatre is about? Taking risks for the sake of narrative? Of course, with a piece like this there is a large degree of interpretation that must be undertaken for the show’s message to be unlocked, but the Volcano Theatre Company are mindful to implement a wide array of performance mediums in the pursuit of accessibility.

“Dynamic, bold and triumphant in its execution, The Populars is a sweaty, sequin-fuelled and riotous analysis of what popular means in the political arena. Listening to what theatre ‘should’ be, Volcano Theatre Company promptly ignores it and dances to its own beat. This is promenade theatre at its finest.”

Reviews, cited,with thanks, to be read in full at:

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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