Six Minute Soul Mate
Brown Council @ Electric Light Hotel (Upstairs)
8:30pm, Tue 10 Mar 2009
I had such an underwhelming response to the last (and, according to a quick search, only) Vitalstatistix production I’d seen (Crazed, way back 2004) that I’d been avoiding anything with their name attached since. This surprised a lot of my Fringey friends, and several went out of their way to insist that I check out Six Minute Soul Mate.
Arriving at the Electric Light a little early, I partake of my usual “early” ritual: grab a drink, type up some notes, have a mull, type a bit more, grab another drink, oh wait that’s the end of the bottle, and before I know it I’ve knocked off the best part of three glasses of Rockford‘s splendidly refreshing Alicante Bouchet. Gulping the last mouthful down as I leap (too quickly) upstairs for the 8:30pm start, I’m confronted by a giant bear, the cute feminine face poking through the bear suit unnervingly cheerful and toothy. I’m walking into a dating service, and as soon as the name-tag is slapped on my chest and a glass of champers pressed into my hand, I’m out on the balcony with the other 19 members of the audience… errr, participants. Nervous introductions and giggles all round.
It’s a tiny audience because we’re being coaxed between three small rooms upstairs at the Electric Light, and the seating is snug. In the first room, we’re introduced to the three main characters – the nervous long-term single just returning to dating, the IT guy who thinks he’s a comedian, and the drunken lush. Over the course of three distinctly themed “sessions”, the four actresses in the production switch roles (including the role of The Bear who guides us from room to room, session to session), each displaying a different take on the character – whilst retaining much of the same monologue and clothes. The first session – where we meet each of the characters for the first time – is a hoot; Ms Nervous is a bubbly wreck, Mr IT is a comedic twat à la David Brent, and Ms Lush latches onto one of the male audience members like a leech. The second session ups the desperation somewhat – Ms Nervous’ head-bobbing becomes excessive, her descriptions of her previous boyfriend’s body-drawing habits more explicit. Mr IT opts for crude jokes targetting feminists as a differentiator, deforming the character into a misogynist pig. Ms Lush targets a female audience member (the wife of her first objet du désir, as luck would have it), who spurns her advances; she kills the lights, leaving us in the dark, while she waits for someone – anyone – to give her a kiss.
But the third session… oh my. Desperation is at the fore; Ms Nervous, becoming more dour and frumpy as the sessions wear on, performs a painfully reluctant, mopey semi-strip dance, exposing her drawing-covered body – we’ve been told that her boyfriend drew those markings four years ago. Obsession, depression, desperation. After revealing that his wife “turned feminist” and left him with nothing, Mr IT chooses me as his mark, grovelling at my feet and asking me to “rub it”. I enquire as to what needs rubbing; the sobbed reply of “anything” leaves me rubbing his shoulder, the safest option I could think of. After being told “I’m not a dog,” Mr IT begs me to suck his cock – I politely decline. He sullenly drags himself out of the room, to be replaced with the most strikingly attractive version of Ms Lush. She places a bucket of water on the floor, says nothing – and Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” starts playing on the stereo. At the chorus, she plunges her head into the bucket, holding herself under for as long as possible, before exploding from the bucket, hoarse and gasping. And again, at the next chorus. And again, and again, no longer waiting for the aural cue. It’s almost wrenching to see her continue to do this. As the light drops, she plunges in one last time… we sit in the dark, knowing her head is in the bucket. An eternity passes, we hear the desperate gasp, and she gets up and leaves.
Holy fucking shit, that was moving.
In fact, that feeling of being in the dark, knowing that she had her head immersed in that bucket, the heavy atmosphere, the heat of the room… it all comes flooding back even now.
But, as I left the Electric Light that night and wandered to my next show, the feeling that clung to me was that of desperation. Each of these characters was tragic, hopelessly lost and alone, struggling for something that would give their life meaning… and the reason that Six Minute Soul Mate is so impactful, so memorable, is that there’s aspects of these characters that are utterly identifiable in yourself. Well, myself, anyway. And that, in turn, left me feeling that there’s hope for me yet – because I’m not that bad, I’m not that desperate.
It sometimes feels a little odd turning something so bleak into something positive, but that’s how I roll.