He’s scruffy and chaotic, but he’s dancing his heart out as we walk in. Running Dogs’ first ever performance of Wanna Dance with Somebody! takes you round the planets of the solar system, round that disco in the village hall and back to the last place you danced in. It’s a good-hearted entertaining piece, with plenty of gentle humour; the technician’s slightly sardonic instructions to our hero on the stage are beautifully timed, with just the right amount of tired exasperation to make them very funny.
Why the exasperation? It’s because our hero is a bit shambolic, and doesn’t follow instructions well. He wants to stop feeling lonely and socially inept, and by asking around, he’s collected a few suggestions for remedies. But the advice he’s picked up is more reflective of others’ view of the world than his own.
There’s the second part of the title to live up to as well: “A Guide to Managing Social Anxiety Using Theoretical Physics”. The social anxiety is there, but the theoretical physics is limited to the role of the planets in the solar system, and their strange relationship to his friends. There’s a metaphor orbiting around in there about friendship, circles, getting close and keeping distant; but it’s not pursued too intensely in this affable show.
As a storyteller Josh Lucas is engaging, but not always as audible as he should be. It might have been first-night nerves, but his voice was high in his throat, and didn’t project well enough to be properly heard everywhere. As a dancer he is fun and energetic, and as a person he is, well, personable – so he gets away with the occasional prop failure. But the show would be much stronger if he projected his voice better.
Overall though, it’s a fun experience; Lucas is easy to root for, and he does really make you feel part of the endeavour. There’s a nice balance between the physical comedy, dance, and storytelling, and the exploration of the point where dance and anxiety meet. What’s more, some reassuringly ramshackle models of the planets, lit up and swinging above the stage, provide some light and colour! Just like Lucas, they succeed in making the theatre space accessible, warm and welcoming – everyone dances at the end.