From the Absurd to the Sublime
An Odd Encounter by Irregular Arts
To say that you’ll either love it or hate it might seem trite and insufficient yet I sensed a somewhat divided audience at Exeter’s Phoenix Workshop venue. But, like Marmite, I loved Jenny Wilson’s and Alison Andrews’ show ‘An Odd Encounter’. Mixing audience participation, slide shows, film clips, live action, live music and mini lectures on love, sex, consent, longing, disappointment and frustration is no easy task. In fact, it is rare that worthy issues can be be both highly entertaining and informative without being overly moralizing. But for those of us who rather like a pedagogic experience sans entertainment, to have the addition of buckets of humour, pathos and innuendo is wonderful; better than any icing on the wedding cake (yes, really) we all were invited to share.
In many ways, the show was a traditional comedy double-act: the flamboyant Jenny, who plays a range of characters, ranged against (and with) the somewhat care-worn and troubled character played by Alison; the former stunning us with her gorgeous singing voice and the latter holding our attention as well as any university professor – better in many ways; however, the two sets of characters are really the sums of all our experiences. I was surprisingly moved by a film clip in which the two show how the extremes of getting ready for date can bring out our anxieties. I think I identified more with the cactus (you have to see it) but I did spend time before I left home thinking about which jacket to wear. In short, when it comes to the subject of navigating sex, love and relationships, there were numerous occasions throughout when I thought ‘yes! I absolutely get that’.
The other performer of note – and I didn’t manage to catch her name – was the British Sign Language signer who was as captivating to watch as the two protagonists. I don’t sign myself so I can’t vouch for accuracy but I can vouch for expression and humour. That says an awful lot about the credentials of the production. A small venue and a small budget yet there was a signer – an act of inclusion that many, many mainstream theatre productions can’t seem to manage. Inclusion and respect is what the show so deftly encapsulates, oh, and sex – there’s lots about that too.
There are 5 more dates on the UK tour at the time of writing, ending in early May – See here: http://irregulararts.com/projects/odd-encounter/tour-dates/
For a film clip preview, see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0MCNlwVqqI&feature=youtu.be
Go see it!
Nick Nakorn 9th February 2019