I popped over to Battersea Arts Centre last week to catch one of the final performances of Gym Party by the brilliant Made in China a theatre/ live art company. The hour long show was bewildering, tragic and side-splittingly hilarious. Three characters, ambitious to the point of obsessive, spent performance vying to win three rounds of bizarre and occasionally heartbreaking challenges, from seeing how many marshmallows they could stuff in their mouths at once (24!), to waiting for an audience member to select them to dance with.
Actors Jess Latowicki, Ira Brand and Christopher Brett Bailey offered us intimate spoken and acted memories from their characters’ childhoods to illustrate their desire to win. The monologues felt honest and raw, yet allowed room for the actors to perfectly parody obsessive ambition.
The challenges began with benign silliness reminiscent of PE lessons and children’s parties, yet the punishments for ‘losers’ were severe and violent. The juxtaposition was extreme. The performance felt like an examination of ambition through comedy and parody, rather than a comment on our daily lives, but it did make me wonder – do we push ourselves too hard to be the best? Do we punish ourselves and others too harshly for not ‘winning’?
Gym Party was commissioned by and developed at Battersea Arts Centre and co-commissioned by Pulse, Sprint, Mayfest and Sampled festivals
Photo from Battersea Arts Centre website