Sunday, 13 January 2019

REVIEW: Fram And Dunt - HOME, Manchester


From the moment I walked into the theatre and saw a whoopee cushion on every seat, it was clear I was going to be in for a different kind of show. As we sat waiting for the show to begin, with the odd fart sound in the dark followed by a burst of giggles, two space-age figures walked on to the stage.

Both were dressed in shiny silver cat-suits. One acted as a BSL interpreter throughout the show, the other tied herself by her hair to a weighted harness and began to swing herself around as ‘Relax’ by Frankie goes to Hollywood began to play.

It was certainly an attention-grabbing start to ‘Fran and Dunt’ which has come to HOME as part of the Push Festival 2019. The festival is devoted to showcasing talent from around the North West. The works shown are frequently strange and often difficult to classify as they range across all styles and genres.

The acrobat spinning around by her hair was Fran. As you’d expect, Fran is a professional circus performer. Her father, Dunt, is not. He works in IT, and beyond some time spent as a musician, doesn’t have much in the way of performing arts experience. In spite (or more likely because of this) the two have collaborated on a show together, one which is framed around the ups and downs of their relationship, as well as gravity defying acrobatics. I’m not sure how many people still run away to join the circus, but I am sure no one else has brought their dad along for the ride before.

Dunt has had a life long fascination with zero gravity, one which goes back to his childhood, where he watched the space race unfold. It’s appropriate then, that his daughter would grow up to regularly defy gravity. The space-age aesthetic continues as Dunt finally achieves something close to zero gravity when, after swapping his business suit for a space-suit of his own, he attempts to replicate his daughter’s circus act, minus the years of training.

The show has a certain ramshackle energy, as many of the jokes deal with what the show should be, what could Dunt bring to it, and even when it should end. As Dunt was keen to point out, this was a show made by a ‘proper circus professional. And her dad’. It is a show which throws a lot of stuff at the wall and most of it sticks. The pacing was slightly off at times, but I was certainly never bored. The performers had an easy-going charisma, and frequently stopped to chat with the audience. It was one of the most welcoming atmospheres I’ve experienced in the theatre.

It wasn’t so much a show about their experiences together as much as it was a show crafted from their experiences. We were given some details to provide context for the show, but it isn’t a confessional, nor did the interplay between the two performers ever slip into lazy sentimentality, even as they ventured into heavier subject matters, such as a past estrangement they suffered, and Dunt’s recent health scare, which was the impetus behind this show. These struggles aren’t glossed over, but they are handled with humour and a lightness of touch. To some extent ‘Fran and Dunt’ can stand for any number of parent and child relationships. It’s certainly a very warm-hearted show, and the connection between the two binds the occasionally wavering elements together. Besides. It’s hard not to like a show which invested in a whoopee cushion for everyone in the audience just because the budget could stretch to it.

Reviewer - Richard Gorick
on - 12/1/19

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