In a year of isolation that’s left us craving connection with others, here comes a show all about the untameable, youthful urge to gather, dance and lose yourself in music. To party, whatever it takes.
Escaping “small rooms, anxiety, silence”, a group of dancers are called back to a club. “It’s a risk,” says the club’s house Mother (Justice Ritchie), although for more complex reasons than the obvious.
Pod was co-created by director Jamie Bradley and choreographer Vicki Igbokwe of Uchenna Dance, and devised with the cast of final-year acting students at Guildhall School. It’s an achievement to be putting on a live-streamed, full-scale performance during lockdown. When it looks like the clubbers in Pod are overly fond of their personal space, well, that’s social distancing for you, but it doesn’t make much difference to the effect.
For Pod’s protagonists, partying is serious business, from the philosophising doorman to Zachary Nachbar-Seckel’s drag persona summoned into being like a spirit. Igbokwe gets everyone dancing in convincing fashion: the fierce queen, the sexy girl, the dramatic dancer, the on-the-spot bop. The movement’s more naturalistic than the script, which comes with a dose of lecturing: on the neuroscience of house music; on reclaiming one’s sexuality by wearing a skintight catsuit; on the importance of paying tribute to the people who invented the art – in this case the dance form waacking, developed in LA gay clubs in the 1970s.
Namechecks for pioneering house DJs Frankie Knuckles and Marshall Jefferson come alongside monologues on the lives of orcas, mammals who, like us, gather for pleasure, bonding and social interaction, their familial “pods” mirroring the nightclub family. But from the microdramas of the dancefloor, the intimacies played out in pulsating darkness, or the strip-lit confessional of the ladies’ loos, the play takes a swerve into more sensational territory, and ultimately questions how real that connection with your clubbing family is. The strong cast manage to hold it all together, the alluring Golden (Aoife Gaston), New Girl (Umi Myers), slowly revealing herself as the evening progresses, and Ritchie’s Mother, the mysterious, troubled heart of the party.