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6.0: How Heap And Pebble Took On The World And Won
Published on Tuesday, 25 August 2009

There are times I wish I could dispense with a star rating, and put a great big question mark instead. There's clearly something I've completely failed to get about 6.0: How Heap and Pebble Took On The World And Won; I see m'learned friends at ThreeWeeks and FringeReview have each given it 5 stars, while Broadway Baby chip in with 4, and they can't all be wrong. But I owe it to you to voice an independent view - and so, here we go.

The concept of this play-crossed-with-physical-theatre is, I admit, a good one. When the title says ice-dance duo Heap (the bloke) and Pebble (the woman) take on the world, it's not referring to their skating competitors; on the contrary, it turns out, our couple have been world champions for years. No, they are literally taking on the planet, as rising temperatures melt the ice and force them to adjust to performing - still wearing their skates - on wooden boards. It's a charming parable about the compulsion to excel, and about humanity's ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, summed up by the mantras Heap and Pebble exchange between themselves: "Adapt!" "Little changes!"

So far, so good. There were some neat details in the script and performance, too; a particularly striking trick with the lighting here, a fine display of simulated artistic petulance there, some impressive lifts during the final dance. The obsessive Heap and reclusive Pebble are interesting characters, and there's a pleasing chemistry between them on the stage.

My problem is that it was slow, slow, slow. I'm not referring here to the frozen, slow-motion physical-theatre tableaux which form a substantial part of the performance - evocative of, for example, the melting of the ice and the change from snow to rain. Those bits were well-done and expressive, and would have served as a welcome counter-point to a generally faster-paced play. No, I just found the storyline painfully slow to emerge: too many shy silences, too many random diversions, too much overall that didn't move anything along.

I wonder whether it's a show which depends very much on the audience it gets that night; I could see a few of the sections feeling very different if the crowd responded to them more. The group I was with, though polite, were distinctly quiet. The awkward silences which greeted some of the wackier moments certainly didn't help the show, and they were unlucky with the choice of person they got up on stage for a rather long-winded moment of audience interaction.

So what are you to make of it all? As we stood up to leave the venue, two people in front of me shot each other enthusiastic thumbs-ups; while, next to me, another man slowly shook his head. It feels like a love-it-or-hate-it kind of a show. So, if you like the concept and you like physical theatre, perhaps it's worth a throw of the dice; I rolled snake eyes, but you might land 6.0.

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