Happy Dave, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Dave’s a middle aged advertising executive from Yorkshire, now living and working in London. Amidst his humdrum life, he longs for his youth as a pioneering rave DJ playing to thousands of people, running events up and down the country with his ex, Molly. An invitation by a well-meaning colleague half his age leads Dave back onto the path he abandoned and his transformation into a cultural messiah to a generation focused on careers, property and conforming.

Oli Forsyth has a great script on his hands, despite a hint of judgmental condescension towards millennials. The script states they waste their lives on jobs they hate, have no cultural or creative identity and surround themselves with material possessions to make their empty lives feel full. Dave first aggressively voices this opinion, but his four comrades eventually agree that their generation is distinctly lacking in rebellion. Though this is certainly true of some people, others may find genuine happiness in their high earning, corporate lifestyles.

The opportunity to see Dave as a young man gives the story and character added depth, and there’s good continuity despite Dave being played by two different actors. The dialogue has a natural flow, though a few spoken word monologues feel out of place even though they are well written. There’s room to extend the story after the well-crafted, current climax that shows Dave hasn’t really changed his attitude since he was a young man willing to sacrifice everything for the scene. Lengthening would solve the issue of the abrupt ending by adding a dénouement that answers any questions about the consequences the present Dave has to face.

The ensemble of five is strong; they capture the anger and frustration innate to those trapped in unsatisfying lives. Andy McLeod as the present day Dave is excellent, with clear character choices and constantly bubbling rage that dissolves into bliss when raving or DJing. There’s little genuine warmth between the present day gang, which, although indicative of how self-absorbed millennials are, is unsatisfying to watch. Younger Dave (Forsyth) and Molly (Helen Coles) have some genuinely lovely moments, though a few are a touch overacted.

Happy Dave is remarkably polished for the Fringe, and a dynamic storyline with plenty of emotional rage effectively maintains attention. It’s certainly worth catching.

Happy Dave runs through 29th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

Rave Space, Camden People’s Theatre

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A few hours before the start of the New Year, I found myself alone in a dark room in Battersea Arts Centre with two DJs, Will Dickie and Jeremiah Isaacs. The encounter was intimate, revealing and brief. Twenty minute long The Resolution Studio recorded individual participants’ resolutions for 2016, created a signature dance move, and the two djs and their audience of one had a quick groove session before rejoining the venue’s party. Though I felt self conscious at being the sole centre of these two artists’ attention, it was an event that stuck with me the past few months.

When I received an invitation to Camden People’s Theatre festival Sprint 2016 closing show, Will Dickie’s latest work Rave Space, I jumped at the opportunity to experience more of his work. With The Resolution Studio captivating me with Dickie’s charisma and sensuality for such a short time, I couldn’t resist the offer of an hour-long rave and text hybrid piece in the basement of CPT. I left confused and disappointed, though. There are definitely some wonderful aspects of Rave Space­. Interaction, dance and music meld to make a gig theatre piece with some audience autonomy, but with an actual runtime closer to 90 minutes and lengthy, muddled sequences of text and contemporary dance that only tenuously fit together (if at all), this new piece is much in need of further development.

One-by-one entry, whilst it adds atmosphere and interaction, takes a long time as we each have to ID ourselves and receive a hand stamp. Once we’re in, we can peruse the tiny stations with LED signs, turntables, and random objects assembled like shrines in the corners of the room. Some people are given laser pointers. It’s mysterious, cryptic and exciting, though there isn’t much to actually do or engage with. People are chatting, performers/stewards in hi-vis pepper the space and it feels like a gig is about to start rather than a theatre piece. There are no chairs, and it’s late. The lengthy build-up creates buzz and excitement, but what follows is an anticlimax.

When the music starts, spinning from a pentagonal structure in the middle of the space, a few people get really into it, most others bob heads, some don’t join in at all. That’s ok because there’s no judgement, but watching other people have a great time can be dull. Spoken text over a mic and pre-recorded monologues eventually kick in, but there is a detachment from the music, even though the content is often about music or rave culture. There’s no through-line or any justification for pairing that particular music with those text extracts. Comparing rave culture with the experience of going to church is the most interesting proposal, but it is not investigated further. Also disconnected from any of the topics discussed in the sections of text are sequences of contemporary dance in various styles, including what looks like Butoh. Though a display of adept, emotive physicality akin to a Rodin statue coming to life, these are also detached from everything that has occurred so far.

Though the concept of creating a piece that incorporates rave culture with performance is an excellent one, Will Dickie’s execution leaves much to be desired. There is no denying his charisma and talent, but Rave Space needs to consider its aims and its audience as it grows.

Rave Space was a one-off event at Sprint 2016.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.