Physical comedy and dance are stupendous companions when they work – and Chess Dillon-Reams and Cristina MacKerron have the energy and the intelligence to make it work here. Their dance is skilled, their timing is spot-on, and their comedy is, well, hilarious. It’s a fantastic mixture.
What this show might lack in subtlety, it makes up for in exuberance and sheer front. But that’s an observation, not a criticism; this is physical humour at its broadest and best, and there is a lot of detail and attention given to every aspect of the performance. Even when the duo are changing costume for their finale – which takes a while – they don’t waste this time; their heads pop up over the screen, their comments continually coming, entertaining us and building expectation at the same time.
That approach was one of the things I really appreciated about their double act; they’re not afraid to take time and space to illustrate what they need to, from the comic distress of thinking aloud about what might go wrong, to “something really has gone wrong”, to simple cowering under blankets. The entire audience is watching with a wide grin on their faces, whenever they’re not laughing out loud.
The verbal aspects of their show (if that’s not too prissy a way to describe the way they talk: natural, funny and engaging) are worked out with equal precision. The lip-synching is great – but yes, they can sing as well. A routine about things that have gone into their mouths is hilarious, because you’re waiting for the obvious punchline, but they subvert that expectation beautifully. There are punchlines in spades, in fact, and they are all very good.
There’s coherence too, built around their show’s main theme: how we deal with painful experiences. They take on that topic with a genuine humanity and gusto, but there’s sadness and pathos in many of the examples. There’s a telling moment when one of the dancers, swathed in ridiculous protective gear, realises that her partner has walked off the stage – and the slow discovery of her abandonment is simultaneously comic and sad, milked for laughs yet also played for real. A motif of how too much help can cramp and confine you is another dance portrait that’s watchable, clever and meaningful at the same time.
The humour of the performance invites comparison with the best comedy, but it’s the dance and physical elements which make this show stand out from stand-up. The dance is both communicative, and fun to watch; they take a delight in their performance together, which is palpable and shared with the audience. There’s a confident chemistry between the two which also adds to the show – you can see they’ve worked together for a long time. Terrific stuff. See them if you can, though the performance I saw was deservedly sold out.