Venue MK, Milton Keynes
June 4, 2021
As 70’s soft rock begins to play dance songs and the bland-faced Sandy (Eleni Edipidi) and Bruno (Nathan Johnston) sing along and playing air guitars and drums, throwing in some cheesy and very together backing dancer choreography for good measure, there’s just a moment when you wonder if this was a good idea. Then a smile creeps across the face. The Band has you hooked.
Behind the couple sits a rack of glinting sequinned costumes. On the wall is a gold disc. For a while, they lived the glam rock dream, although she was definitely the fame hungry half of the couple. You sense he wasn’t quite so keen and just followed her. But, “Fame doesn’t last. We had it. We lost it,” as we hear; except that she still has idea of the big comeback.
That we never find out whether they make it doesn’t matter (I suspect not), because what The Band is really about is them, their relationship and their coming to terms with each other’s dreams and outlook. It’s about finding support in each other for all their differences and their different realities. In all that, it’s beautifully judged and quite heart-warming.
There are some jewels of visuals. In Sandy’s dressing room, a lampshade turns into a microphone, in front of which Sandy stands in a sparkling black dress. Bruno uses a guitar case as a table and a mini version of the same as a lunchbox. From the contents of the latter, his making a meal of making a meal, his so careful assembly a sandwich is a masterpiece of detail. His then dousing it in salad cream before stuffing it in his mouth punctures the scene marvellously.
There are more gems in their facial expressions as she becomes increasing desperate to get on with getting back, and his so calm response.
But deep down, Bruno and Sandy are devoted to each other as is made clear in a delightful projected animation using two dolls. And if he doesn’t have dreams of a return, he certainly has fond memories of the past, shown when he dons a spangly (and now way too small) waistcoat.
Alongside the physical theatre is the aerial hoop work. There’s a glimpse of it early on, when Sandy casually twirls and lounges on a hoop hanging in her dressing room. Later, and in a metaphor for their professional and personal relationship, Bruno literally anchors her success, the rope securing the hoop fixed to his belt. She flies, he stays firmly on the ground.
But then a surprise as Bruno takes to the hoop himself. Johnston is not the smallest performer, but he moves lightly and gracefully. The couple’s togetherness then comes to the fore as they find peace in a beautiful final duet, both hovering above ground, carefully balancing each other. It really was quite moving, and a special way to end a delightful fifty minutes of super physical theatre that sends you have with a warm feeling inside.
There’s much more dance and circus coming to Milton Keynes in Universe & Me, a free dance festival curated by Mótus in Middleton Hall, centre:mk on June 19 and 27, 2021; and then in July at this year’s IF Milton Keynes International Festival.