The overwhelming question Number 1, The Plaza, left me with is: “have I missed something?” I circulated the bar after the show, like I do, all G&T and bewilderment, asking a host of randomers this very question. The responses varied from “I don’t know” to “maybe that’s the point”. If that is the point, it’s pretty convoluted but there is definitely something to it: there is intentionally no plot, intentionally no real substance and intentionally nothing but the big, wide eye of insight.
So, on the face of it, we’ve got the ballsy coercion of a female double act. The dynamic, the characters and the balance are all rolled up and then smeared in shit. Actual shit – metallic and sequinned dresses, glossy and synthetic hair extensions are all dripping with the lumpy brown stuff. I don’t know if it’s meant to be shocking, but it isn’t: it’s gross, but not shocking. They’ve made a statement out of their image alone, forcing the contrast between falsity and the gritty honesty of what’s on the inside right in your face. As I see it, Lucy McCormick and Jennifer Pick are blurring the lines of the show, between the pretence and the real. Billed as an ‘in conversation with…’, they let us into their ‘home’ where we can see them as they are, at their invented worst. Their characters are laid bare: McCormick is needy, attention-seeking, tactile and annoying, and Pick is dry, full of concise quips and control.
There’s cabaret songs from the musicals, which descend into drunkenness as McCormick tops up her glass with cheap plonk and Pick with straight whiskey. As they get progressively more inebriated, the audience spirals downwardly with them. I for one felt trippy, struggling to keep up with and believe what I was seeing. It feels messy, like the morning after a house party, full of things that you can’t unsee and truths that you wish hadn’t been let loose, but that probably needed to be aired. As they tip their excretion out of the middle-class trophy of Tupperware, and get their stilettos stuck in it, they really are letting us in, deep inside the underbelly of their double act. They make theatre/performance art/comedy out of what goes on behind the making of theatre/performance art/comedy. The thing is, I don’t know whether I want or need to see that. That’s the line they are treading.
There is a void where there should be at least an inkling of plot. It’s a big old demand to make of your audience – to expect them to dedicate 80 minutes of their lives to watch you spiral and spiral yourselves into a dizziness, culminating in a completely naked wrestle (I saw parts of those girls I’ve never even seen on myself), without telling them anything. If the point is to tell the truth beyond and behind the theatre, there needs to be some theatre, and there needs to be something that you are actually saying. What’s more it needs to be said quicker: there is so much empty time spent hiding behind a sound desk or repeatedly walking around silently. There is a whole lot of emptiness behind the art, and I know that, but nobody goes to theatre to see it.
Number 1, The Plaza is playing at the Soho Theatre until 12 April. For more information and tickets, see the Soho Theatre website.