The Victoria Pub, London
Written by Sophie Andrea Mitchell
Directed by Sophie Barth
If you like your reviews as short and sour as a tequila slammer, let me say just this: site-specific DISCO, that ran for three days from 2nd June, isn’t going to impress those who thrive off imaginative and original storytelling. And the drawn-out tale of online dating, embarrassingly pushy mates and dance floor awkwardness that sits at the heart of this evening certainly won't revolutionise your understanding of life, the universe or anything in between.
That said, few fringe productions are going to dish out this much fun, nor permit you to get so involved in the atmosphere of the night. This newest production from Three Pegs excels in its exhilaratingly fun attention to detail. Audience members are invited to pull their cheesiest track recommendations into a collaborative Spotify playlist and before the show kicks off properly, there’s just enough time to Sharpie something smutty onto a displaced toilet wall and prank call a couple of the numbers left by previous occupants. Then, it’s time for party games.
Such is the charm of flirty and charismatic DJ Michelle Barwood, as she piles one vintage hit after another and pulls audience members into the party, it’s easy to feel thoroughly immersed and involved in this evening. Sadly, though, when we’re introduced to the four characters that make up the night’s dramatic arch, they seem to be in a different bar altogether and the link between our fun and games and their tale of desperate chat up lines and sloshed romance is flimsy. DISCO gives us an immersive and involving take on the difficulties of making connections in a detached and superficial world – but it does so by making a group of strangers all hold hands and manoeuvre a hula hoop around their circle. It is at once and jarringly, cynical and optimistic – its narrative telling us how tough it is to form connections, but its atmosphere pulling back the ghosts of children’s parties, student unions and rose-tinted 70s free-loving shindigs to remind us that we are all, at heart, social creatures.
While the occasionally inaudible audio may remind you why conventional theatres have cornered the market in presenting drama and a couple of Sophie Andrea Mitchell’s scenes lie either wooden or obscured under Sophie Barth’s direction, the thrill of DISCO comes from how it borrows more than mere space from its host venue. This is not pub theatre in the sense that it uses the back room of a local boozer to transport you elsewhere; rather, DISCO reminds us of the excitement up for grabs in ordinary locations.
In this short play, the characters learn to build courage around strangers and to be more open to what life throws at them; with its playful, noisy and mildly intoxicated atmosphere, DISCO dares us to instantly put these lessons into practise – whether that be with a view of scoring that hot date, or just getting better at passing the hula hoop!
Guest reviewer: Amelia Forsbrook