Review by Hannah Knowles
TANGLED Feet describe themselves as experimenters in physical
theatre and theatrical performance, and physical is certainly
the operative word for this athletic and vibrant companys
The eight-strong group only formed in 2003, but the actors work
together with an understanding and sympathy for each others
movement and speech that suggest a much longer relationship.
Although physical theatre is not a recent innovation, Tangled
Feet breathe new life into the form with their enthusiasm, unquestionable
talent, and lack of pretension.
Mostly recently, the company produced Catching Dust,
which played to packed audiences at The Pleasance
and The White Bear theatres.
Dust is the last thing these actors are likely to catch, as they
dance, leap and fight their way through this devised piece.
The concept behind the play is that someone has sat where we
are sitting, and will take our place there once we leave.
This becomes a wider metaphor for personal relationships, as
the characters meet, love, and lose, and then begin the same pattern
with different partners.
The script is neither exceptionally insightful nor complex, but
it is not intended to be. It is the very simplicity of the characters
dialogue that is key to Catching Dust.
The same brief and surface-level communication that fuels the
beginning of each couples relationship is the same thing
that subsequently destroys them.
Accompanying the dialogue, are intricate and often violently
choreographed moves, which express, with searing honesty, the
messy, complicated reality of the relationships depicted.
In arguably the most powerful scene, Alyson demands that Leon
open a letter that has fallen through their letterbox, believing
that its contents are the reason for his recent, bizarre behaviour.
His refusal and her increasingly unhinged responses to this are
expressed in minimal verbal terms, which makes gripping enough
viewing without the incredible dance-fight that accompanies it.
Add that, and the scene is electrifying. Rarely do we get to
see such ferociously athletic, graceful, and resonant performances
in British theatre.
The phrase catching dust, refers to the belief, of
one of the characters, that he has an allergy to dust, and that
as long as he can catch the dust before it reaches him, he will
However, none of the characters, it seems, can catch the proverbial
dust before it reaches their relationships.
Instead, they seemingly encourage it, as they become increasingly
desperate, jealous and violent towards each other.
The productions attitude towards relationships is distinctly
bleak, with all three couples affairs ending with at least
one of the lovers in each partnership suffering from some form
of mental illness.
Though this is, perhaps, a rather unnecessarily pessimistic outlook
on sexual relationships, Tangled Feet should be applauded for
approaching an issue as contentious as mental illness in the same
breath as the petty jealousies of women fighting over a man.
Too often in theatre, mental health problems are either treated
with kid gloves or as a vehicle for shock, but here the company
has the courage to present it as it is; a daily reality, as banal,
awkward and frustrating to deal with as friends fighting over
a shared lust object.
Despite its many virtues, the production is not without its flaws.
The characters repetition of phrases, while symbolically
significant of the repeated patterns we fall into in relationships,
and here often used to good comic effect, does become tired.
Perhaps this is the danger of devised work as opposed to scripted
This aside, it is hard to fault a group which is so happy to
take risks in the name of theatre, and does so with such success.
It seems strange to watch a play with such a negative outlook
on human relationships and to come away feeling so upbeat, but
this is nothing to do with the credibility of the actors
It is, simply, that despite the often disturbing questions the
production raises about life, it is impossible to come away from
this play without feeling inspired by the talent and creative
force of the company behind it.
Tangled Feets next production will premiere in June at
The Pleasance, and Catching Dust travels
to Edinburgh in the late Summer.
The latter has shown the company to be one of the most exciting
and innovative around.
It will be interesting to see whether they can build on this
potential over the coming years without losing their incredible
energy and enthusiasm.
Hopefully, it will be a journey that many will join me in following.
Catching Dust. Directed by Nathan Curry; Design adapted by
Leon Smith, Abi Wadham; Costume: Imogen Loveday; Technical Support:
Luke Gledsdale and Tom White.
WITH: Jonathan Ellicott; Lisa Benson; Leon Smith; Mario Christofides;
Emily Horn; Alex Ramsden; Aly Cale