FRINGE REVIEW – Hot Mess, Tantrums


1800 (1930) until 30th (not 28th) @ Hawke and Hunter

Twins. A boy, a girl. One heart. Growing upon a small island in the Solent: five miles by two, no more. Sister Twitch can’t help falling obsessively in love and scarring the subjects of that love in order that they won’t forget her. Brother Polo cannot even show affection and sympathy for his best friend Jaks. When Polo returns home from the city after some years away to celebrate the siblings’ twenty-fifth birthday they, and their friends, will muddle their way through exploring the oft-repeated tale of two people and not enough love.
Played in the round in the downstairs of the latest uber-glamorous nightclub Hawke and Hunter this is a brilliantly acted play about young people in the way they interact and love.
Hot Mess’s story is ostensibly about two siblings but it is Twitch, her brother the narrator of her early expressions of greedy love, who is the main subject of the piece. Thankfully she isn’t a Disney princess of optimistic feminine innocence but a beautifully if elusively drawn conduit of youthful simple love. Twitch and her American lover personify perfectly those early weeks of young crazy infatuation and yet again writer Ella Hickson nails with exactitude and flair the oh-so identifiable experience in her fresh script. The scenarios are recognisable without being hackneyed; funny and poignant in equal measure without taking either to a contrived extreme.
Polo’s isolation and lack of sexuality isn’t explored fully, but left intriguing in its possible meaning. It is unclear whether his lack of ‘heart’ is the cause of his asexual nature. The assumption the audience might make early on that he is gay, a result primarily of his interaction with Jaks, is not dealt with and it’s hard not to wonder if there was any intended critique on the role of female’s side-kick for so many gay men in both life and drama.
If there is moral judgement in the writing it is in the eventually direct comparisons made between the undisciplined passions of Twitch with the sex loving Jaks. The latter’s assertion that the love stuff makes one a limp-dick coming off the worse in the consequences of the narrative.
Jaks’ biggest problem, however, is that her sexual power is been used vicariously by untouchable Polo – and in fact shows from the very beginning an affection for her friend and family. She is easily the most popular character with the audience, mainly because of her familiarity – many women will see themselves having silly fun with their gay best friend in Jaks and Polo’s scenes together. And a rather wide demographic can enjoy the moment when the Dirty Dancing soundtrack plays on the dancefloor.
Besides a glass or two of water there are no props, the club is the scenery, lighting and soundscape and is worked beautifully around the performance as the performance is worked around it; a really great example of site specific staging.
The script is a poetic interaction at the same moment as being well-observed natural dialogue – showing Hickson’s rare and delicious skill. The performances are tight and the direction precise and effective.
This E-Spot reviewer may not have been able to identify every band on the sound track but she could identify with every experience Jaks, Polo and Twitch enacted. For it is possible to be a hot mess of all three characters – just maybe once you’re a wee bit older than twenty five.

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