There must be a temptation to use real product on the set of PERMISSION TO SPIN from Apocalypse Theatre Company in association with Red Line Productions. This is a manic 65 minutes and whatever hurtles the three person cast through it must be illegal. And I want some!
In a shiny yet nondescript office we meet Martin and Jim. Jim is the agent for recording phenomenon, Cristobel, whose music is about to win Children’s Album of the Year. The reason that Cristobel is going to win the aforesaid award is down to the spin skills of Martin who has made her character, Miss Polkadot a household (read happy meal figurine) name. His methods are obvious. He brings the menace down on poor, coked up, manic Jim. Cristobel on the other hand has been mouseily manipulated by this harrying double act but is on the roar to becoming her own person. Consuming will happen, bullying will occur and disorder will ensue.
These are three people teetering on the very edge of functionality, Jim being the closest to the escarpment. Arky Michael is just a wonder in this production. He never seems to voluntarily travel anywhere, instead he appears for all the world like he is being yanked. His feet never move first. His physicality is startlingly characterful… from shoulders tensioned up around ear level to prone, done and dusted, full stop exhaustion. His humiliation at the hands of a casually demeaning Martin is abject… and completely without his garnering an ounce of audience empathy! It’s brilliant. Plus he has a tour-de-theatre sequence that is so skillfully achieved as to be impeccably, merely, inevitably, an unremarked eventuality from his hypomania. And paranoia courtesy of Martin.
It would be easy to speak of Yure Covich’s creation of Martin as big but that’s too easy. Because he is huge and his vile physical presence is just … everpresent. Yure is a seriously nice bloke, but you seriously wouldn’t know it from this perfectly pitched performance. He speaks with downward inflections and lengthens out consonants for effect and booms for attention. Despite the fact that he wants complete control over the other two he never, ever, cajoles, requests or bends in any way, shape or form.
Anna Houston’s Cristobel, on the other hand, is trying really hard to stay upright but both the men are hell bent on twisting her to suit their agenda. She’s pretty closed down when we first meet her and when Jim helps her into a try-on dress for the awards ceremony he lifts her around like a manikin. It’s fucking creepy as shit! At one stage she ends up on the floor, only just propped up against the wall and looks in every respect like a broken doll. But Houston stays on top of the character’s victimhood, early on we can see that she can see what they are up to and her responses have the subtleties which will lend strength to her own agency. When that asserts itself in her.
Which leads to a discussion of the writing from Mary Rachel Brown. Once you tune in to the comic nature of the text, it’s laugh out loud funny but that is not all that is going on here. I was with a half dozen friends and over dinner we compared notes. As you do! We were all thoroughly entertained because PERMISSION TO SPIN is frenetic, funny and bizarre in places.
And broadly appealing, I could hear myself laughing in completely different places to my friends and one raucous friend had me shaking my head at his warped sense of humour. However, our dinner debrief centred on the touching and futile elements of the text. Leading us into thoughtful and in-depth conversations around bullying and the trapping of domestic abuse sufferers. And the consequences of losing autonomy, in favour of fame, or by political, educative or socio-economic factors. It was a not the laugh out loud dinner that one might have expected. I love that!
So many reasons to love PERMISSION TO SPIN, not least of all the direction by Brown and co-director, Dino Dimitriadis. Not only is the movement around the small stage organic but there is very effective control over the needle sharp character beats. This gives a modulated production inside the craziness, with no spillover into farce. Nor does the hyperreality of these “horrific and banal” creatures descend into grotesquery.
Instead we are treated to a visually exciting dark comedy which is all hopped up on something nefarious. Hey cast, DM me if I can get some of whatever you are having!
PERMISSION TO SPIN from Apocalypse Theatre Company [Facebook] in association with Red Line Productions [Facebook] is playing at the Old Fitz Theatre until July 28th. You can read a SAG interview with the writer, Mary Rachel Brown, here.