“I think you expect us to say something... I think you expect the play to begin now”.
The first lines of any play are rarely as frank as this. Yet if there was one word to describe Getinthebackofthevan’s latest production, it is just that - frank. Or witty. Or powerfully and unashamedly clever.
In fairness, one could probably enter the world that External evokes armed with a hefty Oxford English dictionary and still never quite find the right word to describe the hour-long delight that is deftly (and bizarrely) put together by both Lucy (McCormick) and Jennifer (Pick) - personas and performers, with whirlwinds of enthusiasm.
The show is, intrinsically, a response to a Dutch production entitled Internal, enacted in External through some unashamedly “quite offensive stereotypes”. External deftly manages to weave together the external aspects of performance (outing the inner monologue, faking death, faking tears, clamouring for attention, and disco dancing - naturally), with Jen and Lucy creating a fabulously disengaged duo.
Lucy’s flamboyant booty-shaking and hilarious characterisations perfectly offset Jen’s wry cynisism and ardent attempts to explain what the hell is going on. That the play is building towards some form of crescendo is evident (“are you going to have your break down now?” Jen asks Lucy. “No, later” is the reply), yet all conceptions of theatre are subverted as both Lucy and Jen race towards the finish line, which involves (with the audience) writing a physical letter in “response” to their original stimulus - the production of Internal. Whether this play actually existed or not is irrelevant.
In true Brechtian style, props are thrown around the stage, time checks are given, remarks are casually bandied about providing commentary for the action on stage, and throughout all, the mechanisms of suspending disbelief are mocked, all in a deliciously self-aware manner. Aided by some tacky disco lights, with particularly apt music, and some astute direction by Hester Chillingworth, the comic duo reveal what creating theatre is really all about. I urge anyone with an interest in theatre to go and see this little gem of a play.
- Amy Stow