Physical Fest 2015 launch

Tmesis Theatre et al
Unity Theatre

Wendy Houstoun Credit: Hugo Glendinning

Physical Fest—Liverpool’s international festival of physical/street theatre—has launched at the city’s Unity Theatre. The annual 8-day festival showcases some of physical theatre’s most celebrated artists as well as providing a forum for emerging talents.

Tucked away just a stone’s throw away from one of the cities’ main thoroughfares, a sizeable crowd had gathered at the Unity for what promised to be a typically eclectic evening. We would not be disappointed on that score.

For starters, theatre-goers were greeted by the larger than life Boom Booms—a giggly trio of very generously proportioned showgirls who had, it seemed, walked straight off a Donald McGill postcard. The trio waggled their wares around the theatre all night. Saucy. Such was the ampleness of those bosoms, a chap could easily suffocate. Ah bliss.

Then it was upstairs to the top floor to sample the delights of the intriguingly entitled Honky Tonk Hideaway. Through the dark recesses of the theatre we were led, a dozen theatre-goers, groping through the pitch black darkness until through the gauze we spied our destination, a seedy nightclub stage, the haunt of spivs and good time gals.

Invited in, tremulously we took our places. Shimmying, the incumbents went about their business. The Honky Tonk hideaway is a rare treat—an immersive experience that is part From Dusk Til Dawn and part Alice in Wonderland. Thus it’s also an excuse for grown-ups to regress to that long lost state of innocence, when the world was full of surprises. Therapeutic was the word.

And then to the main event of the night. Isn’t it sometimes the way that the starter can sometimes be a lot tastier than the main course? So it was with Wendy Houstoun’s Pact with Pointlessness, the main dish and opening show of the 2015 festival.

Billed as a show of crackling wit, this one-woman meditation on life, the universe and everything in between is a mixture of stand-up, dance and laptop visualisations. Brave. You have to admire performers who go down the one man/woman route. You also have to buy into such shows. The problems begin when you don’t.

The show began with Ms Houstoun, for no particular reason other than to presumably fill time, running several laps around the performance space. There then followed a stream of consciousness word association monologue and, judged on quantity of titters, arguably the most successful part of the performance.

While some of the word play was occasionally amusing, the gambit soon wore a little thin. Mindful perhaps of this, the lady went on to perform a series of dance steps from inside a cardboard box, told a few jokes without punchlines, jogged around the space and finally resorted to surfing on TripAdvisor while delivering poetry. All very pointless. If you got it all well and good, if you didn’t…

Physical Fest promises a week-long series of workshops, performances and networking events culminating with a Closing Party at the Unity Theatre on Saturday 30 May.

Reviewer: David Sedgwick

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