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Published on Monday, 12 August 2013

5 stars

C venues - C aquila (venue website)
Dance and Physical Theatre
1-26 Aug, 12:05pm-12:55pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

Exposed is a joyful, youthful, sometimes riotous show, which lasts just 45 minutes but feels like it packs in far more. Themed around the instincts we sense and then suppress, it’s the Edinburgh debut for the Daventry-based Impulse Theatre Collective – an instantly-likeable young company, who sent me out into the lunchtime sunlight with a grin on my face and a renewed determination to embrace whatever life might send my way.

Physical theatre can be an acquired taste, and I suspect this show will divide opinion even more than most.  So, yes, the performers leap-frog each other for no immediately apparent reason; someone’s trousers fall down, and a man dances with a traffic cone on his head.  It’s tremendous fun but, at first, it’s slightly perplexing.  You do need an open mind, a willingness to just let it happen and a trust that it’ll make sense later on.

Because it does make sense.  There are recurring themes and running gags, deftly brought back at just the moment you’d almost forgotten about them; there are fragments of ideas planted in the first few minutes, whose significance is revealed only towards the end.  Parts of the opening risk being slightly alienating, and there’s a segment with a bellowing drill sergeant which was a great idea extended for a touch too long.  But aside from those minor concerns, it slots together like a precision-cut jigsaw.  Beneath the fast pace and cheery demeanour, this is a masterfully well-constructed show.

It also gets surprisingly dark.  There’s one particular scene, where a mother fights the urge to shake her crying baby, which suddenly makes the abstract seem terrifyingly real.  And that’s perhaps the most intriguing aspect to Exposed’s concept: the show recognises that impulses can be both good and bad, asking us to embrace them but also understanding the reasons why we can’t.  It opens the way for some thoughtful juxtapositions, for example when a policeman explains why he submitted to the demands of that bullying sergeant.

A couple of interactive interludes work cleverly together.  The first, a kind of auction based on the detritus you find in your pockets, was an opportunity for some witty improvisation and was carried off well.  But that’s just the ice-breaker for a second, courageous invitation, the nature of which it would be a crime to spoil.  It could go horribly wrong for them, but on the day I attended it triggered a warm-hearted conspiracy – a willing suspension of the normal rules which ended, beautifully, with a middle-aged woman confessing her love for her husband from the middle of the stage.

And in that spirit, here’s a confession of my own.  At the end of the show, I too felt an urge: one that very, very rarely possesses me.  For half a second, I was going to leap to my feet and lead a standing ovation.  But I hesitated for a moment too long.  And I’m sorry that my courage failed me – because even on the soberest of reflection, that impulse was absolutely the right one.

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